Robin Williams' death has brought many hard realities to surface. A very wise social worker once said to me that the line between "can't" and "won't" is indiscernible with some people when it comes to healthy behavior or reasoning. Sometimes in people there is an internal mechanism which cannot ask for help; it's like that part of the brain is frozen and no matter how much you know you should ask for help, you just can't. That's what all the good intention-ed people who say "ask for help" don't get. It's not that we're bad or lazy, or careless. It's not that we don't know to ask, or that we should ask, it's that we can't. It's like a diabetic being unable to process sugar, they want to, but they can't. That's what is so fucking hard and so very fucking dangerous about this disease. That, and there is no cure. There are ways to manage it, but there is no cure for depression.
I heard a sermon recently that started really strong about the trouble with walking on water and sinking but then it dissolved into platitude, that "Jesus always finds you." It isn't that simple. It ain't so for everybody and it has nothing to do with all "you got" or "don't got" going for you and that's when it gets hard. It gets hard to experience and it's hard to witness. It's hard that not everyone is found by Jesus. For most who are sinking, Jesus doesn't show up unless we do, unless others are working to bring him into the world of the suffering.
This is the hard sermon to preach but it needs to be preached. It's hard to preach about the times where God is missing and how to keep going on. Read the Psalms for more on that, "My God! MY GOD! Why have you forsaken me?"
It's hard to impress upon people that they really are needed to help those who suffer. It's really hard to preach that we need to be searching out those who are suffering. Often they are right there drinking coffee after the service in the parish hall. It requires great effort to notice and more so to exert the emotional effort, but we are needed. We are called. It's a sermon needing to be preached. Platitudes don't float in the place of abject suffering. Are we Christ in the world or not?
It's true. There are times of absolute powerlessness. There are times when you have no control over it, even while medicated, the thought pops into your head, "Just do it" and not in the Nike way, but the go ahead and "check out" way. It's exhausting at times, deep down, deeper than bone deep, six feet under your feet deep exhausting, fencing with depression and suicide thoughts, and for some like me add to it, staying clean and sober. Sometimes you feel like you could just die for some deep sweet rest.
I am blessed that there are people of grace in my life who have always loved me and been there reaching out, living God into me. When God's gone missing, it is relationships which are the holy connection and the only chance we have. If you know or love someone with depression, keep reaching out. Just call, say hi, offer to listen, just say I love you, you may just be the miracle of the day. When in times of great post-breakdown depression, everyday my brother Chris would check in and see how I was doing, the same with my societal Brother Mark, just checking in everyday. I had no pressure to say or do anything, they just checked-in and it meant the world to me. Don't underestimate the power of a simple, "You OK?" to break the deathly silence. It's kinda like speaking to someone in a coma, we may not respond, but it helps to hear your voice. Deeply. Thank God for them, being windows of God's graces.
I suppose anyone reading this has someone in their life who loves them. I think at some level, beyond our bodies in this world, beyond the sub-atomic, beyond the quantum possibilities, everyone is loved by God- sometimes I wonder if I think this to make myself feel better and to let myself off the hook, placing responsibility for suffering squarely on the back of God who created all this possibility.
There are so many people who are alone. Some will be reached. Far too many will not. It is for these that our fervent prayers should flow. Pray too for ourselves that we have strength to reach as many as we can. I have been blessed to have been touched and pulled back from the utter despair. I know there is a love and compassion which passes all understanding, that the greatest thing we can do to testify to God's love is too pour it out from ourselves, as freely as we receive it. It can be in volunteering at a shelter. It can be giving alms to someone on the corner as you wait for the light to change. It can simply be giving an open-hearted smile and glance, from the holy place within where there is no judgement but only compassion which doesn't fear the brokenness we all experience but shares it as reality communion, one broken heart to another. Maybe too the splendid miracle of a little mutual healing will occur.
I used to be around horses. I love them, riding them and relating to them. I can honestly say too that I loved mucking the stalls. I loved the earthy smell of horse crap. I loved shoveling it up into the wheel-barrow, then taking it out to the pile and spreading it out under the sunlight. Here's the thing, if I'd left the crap in the dark barn it becomes a source for disease and other bad stuff, but take it out and spread it in to the air and sunlight, something amazing happens, it becomes great food for the garden, spread it around the garden as fertilizer or with mulch, and man, will your garden ever grow! If you are like me, suffering with the great silent disease of depression, or just having the normal occasional bout, don't hide it in the dark to fester. For me and for others, and with some work, the muck of depression has grown the garden of compassion. Take it out expose it to the air and light. If you can get help, or just find someone you can say to, "I think I may need some help." Try and get things moving again. The sooner the better.