So the Kindle version of Noah Knows got a shiny new facelift…
I’m pretty excited about it because I feel it captures the soul of the book a LOT better than the original did. Am working on getting the paperback cover changed as well, so stay tuned.
Where have you gone, O Lord, and why
have you enclosed yourself with sky?
My prayers go up as score on score
but heaven’s shut like iron door
and silence greets my every wail
where once was succor without fail
My tears fall down, my heart in shards,
and yet Your countenance is hard
Forget me not, nor all my deeds
I worked for You, the many seeds
I sowed in ground you gave me here
Your promises I thought were clear
and yet I have not seen them come
to pass, no not a single one,
and so I sit in ash and dust
and cling to you wherein I trust
that though the darkness is yet vast
there will be time when it has passed
then I will see your hand so clear
and know things aren’t as they appear
my soul is wrung, my strength is gone
I’m weary of the hanging on
please send me comfort, word of life,
and help me see You in the strife
I only ask for crusts of bread,
sustain me here, I’m nearly dead
from worry, disappointment too,
oh come to me, I’m begging You
give ears to hear and eyes to see
that You have not abandoned me
and I will sing your praises loud
with hands aloft and my head bowed
until you come and lift my chin
and tell me I’m Your child again.
What do Vincent Van Gogh, Edgar Allen Poe, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Mozart, Michelangelo, Hans Christian Anderson, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Paul Gauguin, Emily Dickinson, Leo Tolstoy and Ernest Hemingway all have in common?
These are people who literally changed the world, who blasted the status quo apart with works of art or music or writing or political acumen. Their contributions stand today as some of the most progressive, startling, and beautiful on earth, and the list above is far from complete.
But there’s something else that unites them, can you guess?
They were all severely depressed through most of their lives.
Some of the greatest artists, writers, musicians and leaders became great not in spite of but because of their ability to plumb the darkest depths of the human soul and emerge with fists full of fodder for their art.
Are you sanguine, happy-go-lucky, and generally cheerful? You may think depressed people are real bummers, but let me tell you something: you need us. The world needs the melancholic, the depressive, the dark thinker. And why? We keep you honest. We keep you grounded. When you want to skip through the daisies and click your heels together, we remind you that life is finite, that mortality is certain, and that death is a guarantee. We open your eyes to the knowledge that you are merely a vapor’s breath upon this earth, and thus you are urged to act accordingly.
The sanguine who has no melancholy friend to balance them lacks substance and runs the risk of being indifferent to human suffering. One study showed that happy people tend to be less able to empathize with others than sad people are. I maintain that this is because perpetually happy people live in a protective bubble of happiness; a bubble that sad people do not have, and a bubble that tends to keep one from seeing clearly.
Most happy people seem to believe that hanging on to a depressed friend is an act of generosity towards that person, but the truth is, that sad friend has much to offer. Their gloom may make you uncomfortable, but discomfort is often what is needed for growth to occur.
Stick around the depressive for long enough, and you may find yourself gaining valuable perspective that you did not have before. You may find, in the end, that you need your depressed friend even more than they need you.
Sometimes, this weird thing happens in my heart, and it feels like the machine, which heretofore was chugging along the rails clickity-clack, just flies completely off the track.
Sometimes it’s going through a tunnel when it just stops with a groan and leaves me there, suspended in the black.
Joy flees. Hope evaporates. The truth dies down to a whisper; the doubts and fears shriek and gibber.
Inside my head, it’s a tornado of thoughts. They fly back and forth faster than I can even process them. I find it hard to move; like my limbs have weights attached. Just getting into the shower requires monumental effort.
Everybody thinks I’m stupid. I am stupid. People are sick and tired of my bullshit. I’m sick and tired of my bullshit. Nobody cares, nobody understands. Nobody wants to get close. Nobody should get close. It’s dark in here. Really, really dark. People prefer the light. I have none to offer.
I grasp for medication. Not just the bottles of pills that are prescribed, but other, illicit, unapproved medication. I wish I had access to LSD to stop the blackness, even just temporarily, from consuming. I would do it if I could. I would do a lot of things. Instead, I punch walls, punch myself, sleep, retreat, pull away, dream about ropes and knives and the sleep that never ends in miserable awakening.
I want to run away. Far, far away, so I stop hurting the people I love. They would be better off without me, this is the truth.
This is my truth.
This is life in my head.
“So…Judah was brought to me, warm and toasty from his bed, with a huge poopy diaper. He was SO adorable, I just had to squeeze him and kiss him all over his face before going ahead and changing it. And it made me think…this is how God is with us. We just have to bring our shit to Him, and He will take care of it. He doesn’t care how stinky we are, he just loves us because we are adorable to Him. He doesn’t want you to sit in your shit and get all rashy. He wants to help. Let Him.” ~me, in 2011
When I wrote out this metaphor five years ago, I had no idea that I would need to take my own advice so much in the years to come. I would need to cling to this idea, this thought that god loved me in spite of my stinky status, to trust in the master diaper-changer, and let the shit go. Before those years, I struggled off and on with letting go and letting god but nothing like the challenges that would threaten my very survival on this planet that beset me shortly after writing this glib post on Facebook.
Long story short, I did not take my own advice.
I rejected his ministrations, though they were meant for my good. Instead, I sat in my shit. I got rashy. And the longer I sat, the rashier and more painful my soul became. And then the pain led to rejection and the rejection led to anger and the anger to bitterness.
I felt abandoned by god and by the faith I had so clung to for my entire life.
I wandered, for years, wallowing in stink, thinking it was my lot in life to be an example, a warning, a lesson in what happens when you trust too much. I never saw that I was doing the rejecting, that I was the one clinging to the shit of mistrust and suspicion. I believed there was nothing left for me, that all the good that had happened in my life was done and over. That only the dregs of acrid regret was left for me.
Like a child with poopy pants, I became accustomed to the smell. I hardly even noticed it anymore. But other people could smell it, in my bitter words and angry actions. Like a child with poopy pants, I got used to the feel of shit on me, thought it was my lot in life from hereon out. But the rash got worse and worse–it started to bleed and ooze and get infected and I longed for health again.
I don’t know how he did it, but he broke through. He was relentless in pursuing, like the proverbial hound of heaven, chasing after me, waiting for me to just turn and find him there, arms open wide, party at the ready. He knew I had been wallowing in the muck, but he washed me yet again and made me clean.
The doubts are still there, gnawing at the edges of my mind. They have always been, and they will always be, but I can choose to focus on faith, to trust that those doubts and fears have a place in making me more tolerant, more loving, and more accepting of others. I know I am not perfect, but I am staggering forward, one day at a time, sometimes on my knees in supplication and gratitude.
There is a balm for your rash, and a cleanser for your shit. There is only the wish to make it better. Like a child, we must come and offer ourselves up, trusting in the hands that cradle and soothe.
He is a good, good father. He doesn’t resent your stench, any more than we resent the babies we have for theirs. He only wants to remove it, to apply balm to your sore spots, and to heal you. And the whole time, he is lavishing you with the kisses of sunshine and birdsong and laughter and peace, if only you will allow him.
When I was a teen, I had the incomparable benefit of being able to visit the Louvre. The artwork I saw there stunned me and left an indelible imprint upon my heart and mind. I’ll never forget the hushed and solemn atmosphere of that beautiful place, as good as any church for engendering feelings of reverence and awe in me.
Some of the paintings were small, like the Mona Lisa, and others covered entire walls of the enormous palace. Battle scenes in life sized proportion stretched out before me, Biblical scenes came alive in vivid color, historical vignettes brought my studies to life, and countless portraits caused me to stand in studied wonder.
As a teen, and as an adult, I have been a devotee of the Impressionist Movement and the works of art it spawned are among my very favorites. The feeling of movement, the bright colors, the fresh subject matter–it all combined to create what I think are some of the most beautiful works of art in history.
So it’s no surprise that I think of God as an Impressionist. The divine artist at work in my life is no doubt holding his palette, dabbing at my life with the quick, practiced strokes of Renoir standing in an open field, marking down each vibrant red poppy.
One truth about Impressionist art is that it is best taken in at a distance. Because of the nature of the flowing colors and sense of motion, the images only coalesce and make sense when looked at from a few feet away. The true beauty and vibrancy can only be appreciated from the proper perspective.
This is true of my own life as well.
Like a small child at a museum, however, I stand with my face practically pressed against the paint, unable to make heads or tails out of what I am looking at.
Step back, God calls. Step back. See my hand. See, I am still at work, I have not rested nor forgotten this painting. You are my masterpiece, and I will complete what I have begun. Come, draw close to me. See from my perspective.
And, wonder of wonders, the closer I am to him, the more I see the big picture. The better my focus becomes, and I can relax and trust the master artist. His plan for this paltry piece of canvas, stretched across the years I am given, is better than any I could conceive.
When I was a little girl, I would throw up every time I got a shot. I would worry so much and so far in advance of the actual needle that when the time came to receive it, my muscles would be so tense that the doctor would have to jab harder just to get the damned thing into my flesh. Hence, it was twice as painful and traumatic as it needed to be.
As a woman, I’ve learned that physical lesson over and over again in childbirth. Labor pains are, well, painful. But they do a good work, and if you resist and tense up, they hurt worse and worse. Delivery 101. Not only that, but labor itself winds up taking longer. Longer, and more painful. Who wants that? I was taught–and I learned–to relax, to appreciate the waves of agony for what they were doing: bringing a blessing into my life.
So here I am. Older, but no wiser. Learning all over again how to relax, how to submit, how to stop striving against the pain of this life and instead let it flow over me, let it wash me clean, allow it to bring a blessing into my life. The more I thrash and scream, the longer it takes, and the more painful it is. Why do I do it?
Lack of trust.
I have a deep seated fear that I will simply give birth to the wind and nothing more, that the agony is worthless and void.
This is a lie.
If I will but persevere, if I will trust the one who is orchestrating the music and madness, then I will find that there is great purpose in the pain, that it is bringing with it a great blessing.
Can I trust that much? Can I trust that when things become even more intense and I think I cannot go on one more moment, the event is even at that moment on the horizon? That birth is imminent?
I remember how comforting it was during labor and delivery to hold my beloved’s hand, how he let me crush it as each contraction overtook me, how he didn’t leave my side but whispered words of encouragement even as I struggled. What a beautiful metaphor for the one who stands beside us through the mess and muck and into the glory.
Because it is that: messy. Oh, how very, very messy. And so frightening at times. But if we listen, we can hear the whispers of the encourager as he tells us to persevere.
For so many years now I couldn’t hear the whispers over my own cries. I felt abandoned and distraught. But I believe they were always there. And I’m determined to listen once more.