Depression haunts my days. I live with its specter, wondering when the ghoul will next raise its fearsome head. I’ve had episodes of clinical depression so severe that my parents, my husband, and yes, myself, have all told me in no uncertain terms that I needed help. Serious help. My doctors have seen me in tears so violent they ushered me out of the waiting room immediately and arranged for an emergency session with a psychiatrist the next day. So, I went to counseling. I saw psychiatrists. And I took – and still take – medication.
This post is not to belabor the (depressing!) facts of my life – but to celebrate that despite my challenges, I’ve had some amazing things happen in my life. Despite my depression, and maybe, in part, because of it.
My first episode of depression – at age 13 – was mercifully short-circuited by a move to a new community, where I could leave the terrors of my current school and its dumbed down curriculum (I needed a challenge!) behind. (Also left behind was the psychiatrist and the group therapy for teens sessions I was required to attend, long before Prozac and its kin were invented). I took my clarinet to the new school, and was soon enveloped in the ‘band nerds’ group of junior high school. I hunkered down in that crowd until high school graduation, five-and-a-half years later. Because I was in a fragile state, I desperately needed the belonging that being a member of the band afforded me – and through my high school years, that identity brought me much pleasure. In addition to being accepted as a band member, I relished the identity of brainy clarinet player. As I said, I needed a challenge! I no longer play – haven’t played in more than ten years – but hang on to my clarinet for the memories it contains. Likewise, I’ve long forgotten all the facts, formulas, and Spanish verb tenses that supported my brainy character. However, I know that I needed the support and acceptance that being a band nerd brought me. I embraced that character because I needed to belong – and I needed a way out of depression. In high school – I was who I was because I was first depressed. And, like most of us, post-high school I am who I am, in part, because of who I was then. I wonder who I’d be today, if I hadn’t fallen into that dark hole at the tender age of 13.
My second episode – age 17 – was precipitated by a break-up with my long-time boyfriend. But what a blessing that trip to the dark place of my soul turned out to be. I was depressed. I was sent by my parents – again – to a psychiatrist and teen group. And I had one close friend I confided in. Through her influence, I was urged to attend a church retreat, where I heard clearly and unmistakably that I was a sinner in need of a Savior – and I gave my heart to Jesus! Not having been raised in a Christian home, I was unclear about what that meant – and indeed, for many years convinced myself that I was saved by reading my Bible in my bedroom (because I had started reading it before the retreat, searching for help and meaning in my painful life). But looking back, and ruminating on the past, I’ve come to this conclusion: I was really and truly saved on that day in May many years ago, when – not even understanding or clearly remembering what was said – I confessed Jesus as my Savior and Lord.
I’ll save my other episodes of depression – and what good was brought about through them, for the next time. But for now, I cannot close without focusing on what I mean by ‘I confessed Jesus as my Savior and Lord.’ All people, whether they want to admit it or not, are sinners. To be a sinner is simply to be less than perfect, less than holy, less than all Jesus is. And we are all there. So, on that day long ago, I recognized and admitted that fact to myself, my friends, and God. Having accepted the fact that I was a sinner, I also needed to accept the fact that there was nothing I could do to erase the stain of sin from my life (nor can anyone else do the same). Condemned as a sinner, without recourse to save myself in any way, the only option I had was to recognize my need of a Savior – and the only One who qualifies for that title is Jesus, the perfect God-man who died and rose again. Finally, recognizing that I could do nothing to save myself, but that Jesus was offering to be my Savior, I did the only logical thing – I accepted His offer of salvation. I was saved.
I was saved, and I’ve never regretted it or looked back. It has meant some hard choices in life, and some hard truths to deal with. I chose commitment to my husband over abandoning my marriage vows when things got rough because Jesus saved me. I chose to abandon long-held career dreams for a life in the ministry (which didn’t last long – but that’s another story) because Jesus saved me. I chose to risk alienating my family of birth because Jesus saved me. I live with the belief that many of those I love may not ever accept the truth of Jesus, and the hard reality that, if they don’t, they may very well face eternal death instead of glory in heaven. I live with the fact that I cannot convince those I love to trust in Jesus – and that I cannot even find the words to share my beliefs in a way that is convincing. And I live with the realization that my life on this earth may have been much easier had I not made that choice. But I echo Jim Elliot, a missionary who lost his life to a savage tribe in Central America, in saying, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep [the pleasures of this life] to gain what he cannot lose [the pleasures of eternity in heaven].”