I don’t pretend to know everything about depression. I would tick a lot of folks off and be incredibly insensitive if I pretended to. I’ve never taken drugs for it. I’ve hardly struggled with it for the past decade. And my experiences with it have all been deeply interwoven with my own sinfulness. Usual if my joy is depleted these days, it’s simply a lack of gratitude.
I used to be incredibly depressed, though. Really, the first 7.5 years after Christ sought me out and I finally surrendered, I was a miserable, self-loathing, despondent human being.
I could tell you my whole life story, but I think it would deter from what I am attempting to share, so I will summarize by saying that I spent my teenage years on reckless living, like a prodigal child, and incurred quite a load of emotional baggage, as a result.
I had been a believer for seven and a half years, when my husband, who had walked by my side for every single one of those long, arduous years, looked me square in the eye and said “This is not about you anymore. I need you to repent! It’s killing me!”
So, what was it that made him feel crushed under it’s weight?
It was my self-hatred. I had no concept at all of the grace that had encompassed me for years, at that point, and really my whole life over, being that I should have died time and time again before that. I could have easily died from HIV or some other blood-born illness, the fire that I accidentally started in my sleep and woke up to the next morning, suicide, drunk-driving, or a whole slew of other self-destructive behaviors that I had made habitual before Christ met me in the early morning hours of August 1997.
Yet even after being a believer and knowing in theory that I was a child of God, my heart was so incredibly far from believing it.
Smiles pleading eyes gripped me. I fled. To the floor of my room, knees smacking carpet, pleading, pleading. “God, help me! Deliver me!”
And that sweet, gentle voice met me in my grief-begging. It reminded me that repentance is not only turning oneself away from sin, but towards God. And it reminded me that repentance is not a behavior change, until it is an internal change. We are not only to stop believing the lie, but to “put on the mind of Christ”. It says “Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” One must accompany the other.
I had been trying relentlessly to “stop sinning”. I was well aware that my self-condemnation was sinful. The byproduct was utter depression. What I hadn’t yet attempted was to believe what God says about me.
So I read Galatians about 5 times through, doing almost nothing else for 3 days straight.
And here’s what I learned: God doesn’t expect perfection, He just absolutely loves me just the way I am in all my wretchedness, like a good Father. I learned that I had never before feared the Lord, because I was too busy fearing sinning. I learned that the God who made me doesn’t make mistakes. I learned about this magnificent thing called “Grace”.
It says in Romans 5:20 that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. I learned that whenever I sinned it was like putting a magnifying glass on grace. At that point, I began to, when tempted to despise myself over something I had done, remember that blissful thing called “Grace” and with surprise and wonder, thank Him for it, replacing the self-loathing with God-adoring.
Grace is a magnificent thing. It makes life okay. More than okay. It makes it redeemed. Grace digs deep. It fills crevices. Grace acknowledges the wrong-doing and wipes it completely away before it can leave a stain. It casts it as far as the east is from the west. It nails it to the well-worn cross of a Savior.
And in the place of guilt is left the most ridiculously unbelievable freedom. Before we can complain about our fallen nature, the Lord of hosts wraps us in His glory-filled embrace and spins out souls in wonder.
Grace is found at the Cross. Grace is blood-stained atonement.
I was talking to a friend today about how folks can do such great deeds and be hell-bound. Yet this perspective fails to account for the incredible weight of our own sinfulness. Sin is not something we do. It’s who we are. No matter how hard we try, we just can’t wash it off. We need that grace. That magnificent grace that flows from a pierced side and crushed body… a life sacrificed, on purpose, for the sole purpose of breathing grace. We need a blood-transfusion… His blood for our’s. His righteousness replacing our sinfulness.
And even though we still do rotten things sometimes, when we do, well then there it is again, sparkling in the broken places that we have just created, that grace. Oh that magnificent grace!
Perhaps the reason why we fail to acknowledge how deep and ugly our fallen nature is, is simply because grace is so unfathomably rich that we can hardly imagine, much less comprehend it. Grace is the remedy. For us to understand the depravity, without understanding the remedy would be crushing, so we avoid thinking about it. Or if we were to think about our sin, without understanding the grace that not only forgives but also redeems, we become depressed.
However, if we recognize that the grace is bigger, we can look brazen-faced and wonder at how strong and powerful a thing this grace is. This grace that saves. This grace that redeems, or buys-back, or ugliness.
God buys it back! He ransoms! He takes our ugly and He weaves it into beauty. Only a God so powerful to create the whole, wide world could do it! Thank God He does!
I feel as though there is infinitely more to be said about all of this. Perhaps I will edit and add. It is late and my brain is tired. And I am full of gratitude. For I am a trophy of Grace, a poster-child of Grace, one who has drank deeply of it’s wonders and been made new.
When my emotions wage war these days, the battle is not nearly as fierce, for I know the Answer to lay hold of. My redeemer lives and He is doing wondrous things with me, even my own sin, and He loves me just the same. He does not love me anymore on days that I do well, than He does on the days that I am a mess. And He could not love me any more on any day, because if you filled the whole entire sky up as full as possible, brimming up into the abyss, it still wouldn’t begin to define the limitlessness of His love towards me, because His love has no bounds.
Beautiful post Space…and so fitting for today which is actually Pascha for all Orthodox Christians (called Easter celebration in the West)…after reading this I almost feel like you celebrated with us without knowing it. Christ is Risen! Christos Anesti! Al-Masih-Qam!
“Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.” – Paschal troparion