The Taser's Edge

I Never Thought I Would Be Happy Again: For Perpetual Remembrance
September 21, 2006, 8:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
While we don’t have stones anymore, in most places, readily available to build an altar, I’d like to think that information is about as perpetual as anything gets these days. That sounds cynical, but really it’s hopeful. Acidic papers and papyrus rot away a lot faster than silicon. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I only do so because this is an altar of memory built both for our mutual encouragement and as a witness against myself.
Not all of my readers may know, but for the past several years I have been under the deep darkness of depression. (To capitalize the word would be a good effect, but it would also give it more honor than it deserves.) For a long time, I timed its beginning to my start of college, more specifically to the discouraging reaction that Holly and I received from her parents when we got engaged. It wasn’t that they didn’t love me—they certainly have shown that they do and did—but we deeply disagreed on the timing. But the depression wasn’t their fault and I don’t think that it was anybody else’s, including my own, either.
For years, literally, I let depression defeat me, as something that happened to me. I would feel better for a few days and then several months would pass with little light. And at times, recent times like possibly later today, I still deal with it. But since I’ve started at Duke, I have begun to feel more and more comfortable. I was on an anti-depressant for a drug study recently and it yielded next to no results aside from destroying my appetite and other side effects. That’s not to say that I have a problem at all with pharmaceuticals; this particular one just wasn’t effective for me. I hope to try a different kind in the future and see if it yields better results.
To the point, I stepped off the bus onto Duke’s West Quad this morning at about 8 a.m., and was stopped in my tracks by the realization that I am truly happy. For those of you that didn’t realize it (like me), happiness was something that I had given up hope of ever receiving again. To love something (not to be confused with someone) ever again was something I had given hope of ever doing again.
And I was struck with the horror of that outlook. What I have been doing for the past several years is the greatest sin that I could ever commit. (I hate superlatives like that in sermons and books, but for me this is true at the moment. You’ll have to forgive me if it’s not actually true.) What I have been doing is saying–with my heart, my attitudes, my actions, and the way that I approach relationships with other people (including my wife, family, closest friends, and my God)–that God didn’t love me and that He didn’t want the absolute best for me. Jesus lives for me day after day, and the Holy Spirit intercedes for us all day after day with groans too deep for words. The Father created the earth for our good pleasure and His greatest pleasure is in our pleasure. And I said to the Creator and all of His created things, “You don’t love me.”
And then, after years of this, when I had not even repented for it, God made me happy again! (Those who know me realize that an un-ironic exclamation point in my writing is like twenty million in another writer’s will see that I’m serious about this.) I’m not sure how I could ever do anything worse than what I have done, and I apologize to those people, to myself, and to God right now, for hurting you.
I am happy at Duke, and I am happy in my life. Things aren’t perfect—the house is a wreck, the dishes are done only on weekends, Holly and I don’t have enough time to cuddle, and I don’t sleep enough or do stuff on time—but my current contentment is surely what Moses, Mary, Peter, Paul, and Christ Himself must have known in resting in the loving arms and the loving will of the Father. It might just be a manifestation of what we saints call “the joy of the Lord.”
I heard a good quote yesterday that goes a long way toward describing what this means to me, and it seems fitting to end with it. It is an approximation of a quote by Augustine, as modified by Dr. Ellen Davis, who teaches Old Testament at Duke, and then told to me by Chris Brady, another teacher here. Hopefully it will provoke you to as much thought, hope, peace, joy, and ultimately love, as I have experienced in these past few days. Here it is:
“You cannot effectively work for God until you learn to rest in God.”


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