One of the first things we have to do when we dip into a depression or funk or mood is determine what is the right response. For me is it always a combination of quietness, reflection, and writing about it. I’m not seeking encouragement from anyone, I am writing only because the writing helps me and because I’m trying to give you the best “up close” look I can give you of as much of this journey as possible.
Tried to sleep for a while, but well-meaning nurses kept interfering, you know, by taking outstanding care of me. They have all been blessings. Sleep not coming, depression continuing to dance around the edges of my mind. When I listen closely, it says things like this:
“You’re washed up.”
“Why pretend you’re okay with this? You’re no hero.”
“You’re never going to be as good again as you were a week ago.”
“You’ve had your last good day.”
But rather than focus on the messages I am hearing, I hope you will think about the ones you hear. Because we all hear these kinds of messages at times. That’s normal. The big question is when you hear these voices, do you listen? Do you indulge these thoughts? Do you believe them?
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What follows is an update I just posted on my church’s Facebook page, to my church family. I was thinking of them when I wrote it, but I know this blog is read by many dear friends who care deeply for me and my family, so if you’re one of those people, this is for you as well.
Hello church family. I am in my room at Beaumont, a beautiful private room with a wonderful view. I will be receiving IV steroids over five days. Apparently there is some chance that I will be allowed to take the last couple of days at home, but this is uncertain. I will meet with my MS doctor and this floor’s attending physician in the morning.
As many of you know, this flareup actually began in October. I have had very few healthy days since then, and it seems to have culminated in this — the worst exacerbation I have experienced in my 22 years with the disease. I am so looking forward to lots of rest, peace, prayer, meditation, reading, and solitude during my time here. There is even a Starbucks in the food court, so Christy has assured me that fine coffee will play a part in my healing. It has been so long since I have been a whole person. I hope to do much healing in this mandatory down-time so I can return to you whole (or at least partially whole!), and lead us with an energy and enthusiasm that I have mostly lacked all these long months.
When I think of you I am flooded with a sense of my great and good fortune.
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More from the “We call ourselves Christians but really we’re just huge jerks and this is how we justify it” department… I’m so embarrassed.
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Many people have complimented me on my courage and persistence lately, as I continue to struggle with my MS. The question though, really, is what is the alternative? Is it some great virtue that I refuse to cop an attitude and grow whiny and ask “why me” every five minutes? In the face of a huge challenge like this disease, when exactly is it okay to give up? Is there a point where that could ever be rational?
Let’s start with the facts. I have a disease for which there is no cure. Everything happening in my body right now is completely beyond my control, which is to say there is nothing that I can directly do about it. Even nutrition and my daily injections will do nothing at all to modify the outcome of this current flareup. This adds up to one thing: powerlessness. My chosen coping methods (praying, meditating, and staying in the present moment) make a huge difference in my attitude, but are not treatments for the disease itself.
Given this basic state of powerlessness, the question is whether hanging in there, or giving up, is the best thing to do. I think, frankly, the situation calls for both.
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(cont. from previous post)
7. Nearly all traditional Christian language is belief-based instead of relationship-based. Christians claim that knowing God is about a relationship, not about rules, right? But what are doctrines and creeds, other than rules and statements about what you are supposed to believe? The religion of Christianity is a set of rules about what you must believe in order to be in a relationship with God, just like any other religion. Any Christian who attempts to dance around this is being disingenuous.
Of course the message of Jesus is, in fact, very highly relationship-based. In fact when read with relationship eyes rather than religious eyes, even his sterner sayings take on new meaning. And why should they not be read that way?
Consider this: the things you believe about your spouse and kids are not based on beliefs you had to adopt about them to begin with, but are actually things you came to know and believe in as a direct result of that relationship. A vital relationship with God should develop this way as well. When a “seeker” comes to church, we can follow one of two paths: 1) start teaching rules (doctrine) hoping it leads to relationship (which it may or very well may not), or 2) assume God in his prevenient grace (term comes from Wesleyan theology) has brought them to you, that they are being attentive to God already, and simply teach them how to keep listening to God. If this can be done, the person’s beliefs about God (many/most of which are already affirmed by the church) will grow up around the relationship, instead of the other way around. This is the way relational beliefs are supposed to develop.
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