Weeping may endure for a day…

Well, this was an unexpected day. I got up with plans for a full day of computer work, housework, writing, cooking. But when I sat down to work, a great wave of depression hit, the most devastating I’ve had in a *long* time. I’ve had a couple of bouts of depression in the past year (and since beginning this blog), but nothing like this in quite a while. I just sat at my desk crying and crying. Whenever it would abate for a while, I’d try to get started on something, and it would hit again. So debilitating.

weeping

I thought I’d skip forward in my schedule to my next session of prayer and scripture reading (I’d done my morning prayers), and believed that would help. Well, it didn’t have an immediate effect, except to hover like a little flame in the back of my mind, reminding me that this will pass. And it’s so good to have now in my life the assurance of God’s presence and love, which I never really had before, when I went through episodes of depression like this.

I finally managed to get a little work done, and a meal made. But that’s about it. Even listening to music, which usually lifts my mood considerably, didn’t do anything for me today. I just had to ride it out…

Things are looking a bit better this evening. I have a delicious meal finishing up, my boys are heading home, I’m listening to beautiful carols (and the music’s finally beginning to cheer me up…) Before, when a major depression hit, it would take days to get over, but I think this time it may pass more quickly, even though it’s been a big one.

Now, it’s off to eat dinner with my family and then more prayer time. “Weeping may endure for a night” (or a day!), “but joy cometh in the morning.”

“All have sinned and fall short…”

It’s taken me a long time to answer last week’s RCIA questions, and perhaps you’ll see why:

What has Jesus done to save me?

What is God doing to save me?

Those questions are at the same time deeply personal, and somewhat generic. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Christianity knows the “generic” answer to at least the first question, and many Christians can probably quote some pertinent Bible verses.

It’s only recently that salvation has become personal for me. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” (Saint Augustine) Although blessed with so much, I felt empty until I returned to God. And that’s what Jesus has done to save me. His saving act upon the cross allows us to return to God, it bridges that separation, it enables that close, fulfilling relationship with God.

Throughout those years when I’d left Christianity and “dabbled” in Buddhism, it was as if I were subconsciously trying to work out my own salvation. I knew I was a sinner, feeling exactly as Paul did when he said (in his letter to the Romans):

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7: 15-20)

I could have said all of that, I was that frustrated with myself! The thing is, Buddhism does not believe in sin or evil, so any wrong thoughts or actions that one does, are supposed to be worked out on the meditation cushion. Calm your mind, and you will eventually no longer react angrily. Be mindful, live in the moment, and eventually you will no longer think impatient thoughts. Meditate on impermanence and you will no longer lust after people or things (because they’re impermanent, after all!) Meditate on your own death, and you will no longer fear death…

Now, I’m not saying this doesn’t work for some people (and I definitely met many calm, peaceful, happy Buddhists!) but I knew it wasn’t working for me. I was the same, sinful me after a decade of daily meditation as I was going in! The only thing different, was my despair at my feelings of emptiness and what I termed “spinning my wheels”. If I could have put it into words, I’d have said, “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

And I also felt a desperate, almost despairing, need to believe in God! And although I felt the separation from God in my life, I also felt the potential for closeness, often while I was meditating — that thrill when the quiet in a room anticipates a sound, rather than dead silence. After awhile I could no longer deny that Presence. I could no longer deny my need for God. I need God to fill that emptiness and longing in my life. I need God to thank with overflowing gratitude for my blessings! I especially need God so that I can quit the endless, useless spinning of my wheels.

In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7: 22-25)

We hear as children, “God is Love”, but I needed to experience that first-hand before I could believe it. For the first time I feel and believe I am loved and forgiven by God. I’m not sure what changed, except making small decisions to believe. To believe I could pray to Mary and she would hear my pleas for change in my life. To believe that the Presence I detect, and have been conscious of at moments throughout my life, is God’s Presence. To believe that the voice in my heart that is nudging me in certain directions is God’s Voice. To believe that my prayers and thoughts and gratitude and love for God are received. And to believe that this movement out of despair and lostness and toward God’s love and acceptance will continue.

God's Presence

And it is through Christ’s atoning sacrifice that I can be accepted back! “Just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5: 21) I am so happy that I finally get it! 🙂

And emphasis on God’s wonderful kindness! It’s: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” Not “for God was so annoyed at the world”, or “for God so despaired of the world”, or “for God was so angry at the world”. Those reactions would have been justified, but I never experienced that from God when I returned to him. I only felt love and happiness! God freely gives of himself! It was Christ’s free gift that saves us! “My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.” (John 10: 17-18)

And I recognize that this is an ongoing process. I lay down my sinful self before Christ in the Eucharist, and he atones for my and others’ sins. I constantly try to die to my sinful self, and instead live for Christ in me. I hope to continue to serve him the rest of my days. “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness!”

That those with mental disabilities may receive the love and help they need…

The Holy Father’s prayer intentions for the month of September were for those with mental disabilities, “that they may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life”, and for service for the poor, “that Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.”

I’m particularly grateful for September’s prayer intentions. I believe Pope Francis’ call for change in the world’s treatment of the poor, and change in our political and economic systems that glorify wealth and create deep divisions between the rich and poor, is one of the most moving of his messages to the world. And especially since he practices what he preaches!

I’m also very moved by his prayers for those with mental disabilities, since my family has been particularly plagued with mental problems. Both my husband and I suffer from depression, and have to take medication to help fight it off. Both of my parents, and Jim’s father, all suffered from depression as well, and my father suffered from alcoholism for many years.

When I was in high school, my older sister became anorexic, and lost so much weight that she was around 60 pounds before she was hospitalized to receive treatment. (This was before Karen Carpenter died from anorexia, so nobody knew what on earth was going on with my sister or could figure out what to do for her.)

My mother had a mild form of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) where she compulsively made lists with little grids and boxes and checked things off all the time, but at least it was fairly harmless. My younger two children also have OCD, and have to take medication for it.

Jim and I like to joke, “Mental illness doesn’t run in our family, it gallops!” 🙂

My oldest son has a most severe and scary mental problem, though: paranoid schizophrenia. For a few years after high school, we noticed he seemed to have problems, but hadn’t realized what it was till a friend, who also has a child with this disorder, listened to a description of his actions and gave us her opinion of what was troubling our son. Anyway, after a couple of stints in a prison/hospital (after threatening suicide), he’s now on medication, doing better, and hopefully will continue the upward trend.

Those with mental disability are always in my prayers, but I’m grateful that the Holy Father has been praying about this, because I believe that the prayers of the righteous are particularly efficacious. (That’s why we ask the saints for their prayers, right?)

Pope Francis in prayer.

Next month’s prayer intentions of His Holiness are for Peace (“That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence”) and for World Mission Day (“That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.”)

Please join the Holy Father in prayer!

“Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above…”

Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.

James 1: 17

At RCIA class this week, they also asked us to contemplate, “God, I thank you for…”

I try to keep gratitude for my blessings in mind every day, because it’s such a good antidote to depression and grouchiness. Both dh and I have a tendency toward depression, and I try to remind him of our good fortune whenever I see he’s depressed or he starts grumbling.

We have a home in a lovely area, great children, good friends, and he’s blessed to have a job that supports us. We get to enjoy the outdoors — Jim fishing and I hiking — and we are healthy and should be happy. True, depression isn’t something that one can just “get over”, but on the other hand, I’ve discovered that, now that I’ve started expressing my gratitude to God for all our blessings, I am much less depressed than I used to be.

Just last night, as I was saying the prayers over our Sabbath candles and dinner (in my mind, because dh isn’t religious 😉 it struck me how very happy I’ve been lately. I try to remind myself whenever I see something beautiful, like the woods, flowers, birds, a lake, a sunset (the sunsets are gorgeous here and there was a particularly lovely one last night) to thank God for his goodness. And it really seems to work to increase my gratitude and my happiness.

Lovely lake near our home.

Lovely lake near our home.

I thank you Father for my family, my dear husband, my wonderful children, my sisters and my parents, for my good friends, my home and this wonderful country we live in. Thank you for all the blessings you have bestowed on us! Thank you for the beautiful calm of this Sabbath day, for the sunlight and warmth, the notes of the wind chimes in the breeze, the trembling, glistening leaves, and the brown autumn grasses. Thank you for your gift of the Sabbath, and for the companionable quiet I and my family enjoy on Sabbath days.

Thank you for your Son, who gave himself as ransom for us, suffered and died for our sins, and now reigns with You in heaven. Thank you for Mary, his mother, who guided me to salvation in Jesus and to your Church. Thank you for your gift of faith, and for your unceasing, bountiful love for your people. Amen.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all you lands!

Serve the Lord with gladness;

Come before His presence with singing.

Know that the Lord, He is God;

It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,

And into His courts with praise.

Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

For the Lord is good;

His mercy is everlasting,

And His truth endures to all generations.

Psalm 100