April 22, 2009

To close a chapter

I know there are probably at least a few people who have been reading my blog long enough to know about my year from hell (back when I was going through miscarriages and such), and many of those who haven't been reading my blog that long will still understand what I mean. This has been something I've been thinking about putting up for awhile, and today just feels like the day to do it.

Most of the explanation is simply this -I was going through the worst depression I've ever known, and since there were plenty of times I literally couldn't think for myself I was relying on people who either through error or ignorance misled me. I know who hurt me the most through all this, and all I can say about that is Allen and I have decided that should the occasion come up again these persons aren't going to have the same access to this portion of our lives. These happen to be people we both love and respect, so nuf said. But looking back I can see where all sorts of people, quite early on, should have looked me in the face and given me some hard facts. I can think of a couple nurse-midwives specifically who, if they had taken the time to sit down with me early on, might have averted much of this mess. Instead they just sort of exchanged looks over my head so that when people finally did try to confront me I became confused and ended up falling back on the misguided advice I'd been receiving from other sources. For people who don't see how this could happen may I suggest that you haven't dealt with any sort of long-term depression? I certainly wasn't "lock myself in my room for three weeks" depressed, but I was dealing with some sort of ongoing depression that often completely sapped my mental abilities. There were days I woke up tired and went to bed tired not having done anything more productive than play solitaire for three hours straight. In that kind of atmosphere it is really, really hard to stand up and say "I think we really need to take are hard look at what's going on here, because something sure ain't right."

There was a second aspect in play during that time I really think needs to be addressed. We've all heard people talk about "having a peace" while making a decision or feeling "a burden on their heart" or any of those other phrases signifying that they have had an authoritative feeling on some subject (usually meaning they should either go ahead with something or stop.) I certainly don't want to denigrate that because I believe the Holy Spirit certainly can and does nudge and prompt us in certain ways. We've all heard about the person who canceled their tickets at the last moment and were therefore spared some catastrophe or another. Who can say that wasn't the Holy Spirit? On the other hand, when you combine this sort of "I have certainty because I feel a certain way" with evangelical/American individualism you can run into some serious problems. Coincidences, feelings, and even denials can all become authoritative signs of God that x really is so even when there is no place in the Bible that is specifically mandated to be so. This might sound crazy, but how many of us have heard of someone taking a specific flight, choosing a certain name, or buying a particular house because of something happened to where they said "I knew God wanted me to x." Ok. Did God say so in the Bible? If not you really are sort of just guessing. It might be are really great guess, and you might be making a really wise decision, but it doesn't mean that taking one flight is right and taking another flight would be wrong. In speaking on wisdom and decision making Tom spoke about the fences and the freedom we find in God. Where there are fences (a thou shalt or thou shalt not) we have God's clearly revealed will for our lives. In the areas where He hasn't spoken we have a lot of freedom -where to live, what car to drive, how to arrange our free time, etc. There are certainly better or worse decisions we can make in those areas, but by and large we can make those decisions without running into one of God's fences. However, having individualist evangelic tendencies means that we frequently try to establish certainty where there is none -often in our emotions. I feel x, but you feel y. Whose is more authoritative? Who felt it first? Who feels it the loudest? We see this most in evangelical culture when we hear or read people talking about the finding and knowing the perfect (secret) will of God for your life. Because the secret will of God for you is just that -secret- people tend to start investing feelings and coincidences with the authority of God in order to discern this secret will. Once you do that it becomes easier and easier to believe in God sending extra-normal experiences. Although in the Bible God made it unmistakeably clear (often in a fall down on your face thinking "Oh sh**, I about to be dead" sort of way) when He was breaking the normative pattern of events, I think we evangelicals can be too quick to believe that we can all have a Moses experience where we get sent off on our life's great mission and that furthermore we should seek out that sort of experience. But since there are no more burning bushes we have to settle for seeking authority in various feelings and events. When I heard Tom speak about all this I had a huge aha moment, and much of that very hard year suddenly fell into perspective.

Let me see if I can pull it together in a way that would make sense. If, in the back of your mind, you have this sort of secret will of God theology operating it makes sense that you would invest all sort of coincidences, words, feelings, etc with a measure of authority and certainty or even hold them up as "proof" that "x" really is true -forgetting that when God does break into the narrative like that it's completely unmistakable. Combine this sort of theology with a measure of depression that makes you pretty reliant on what other people are telling you (and heaven forbid these people be firmly entrenched in the discerning the "secret will of God"), and you end up with one hell of a mess. There were some other people who did try to help me and tell me the truth of the situation, but many of them seemed to a. view me as a charlatan, or b. didn't have a good groundwork themselves for addressing the root of the problem -namely my depression and my faulty understanding of normative experience and the will of God.

And so with all that I would like to close what has been a rather difficult chapter in my life. If you don't understand how this could happen then let me simply say that depression + bad theology + bad advice can get a girl into a major mess. It seemed appropriate to put this up here where I wrote so much trying to work through it all both during and after.


Kether said...

I've thought of you and this situation often over the last year as I've followed your blog. I'm so glad that you've had your ah-a moment. I may be in the midst of one of my own.
I'm wishing you well on your new adventure and I hope that your days of depression have come to a close!

Trina said...

I echo Kether - it's good to hear that hindsight has come into focus for you. Your resolutions for CA are great - keep up the good work!

Anna said...

I'm glad too that you have such healthy clarity into your situation. Hoping your energy situation turns around--I know that I spent much of my twenties feeling quite tired!

Natalie_S said...

Anna, reading your comment and looking at what you've accomplished on your blog is such an encouragement to me -maybe it's ok for to me to be a slow starter.

Trina and Kether, thanks for your encouragement.