I’m still not on great terms with my Church. I haven’t taken Communion inside my diocese since 14 February, which will be the biblical 40 days on Saturday. (Since I have travelled outside the boundaries 4 times, to 4 different churches, and taken Communion each time, one might call it wandering the wilderness of suburban Chicagoland.) On Good Friday, there’s no Mass, no consecration, and no reference to the power of the Bishop, so I felt more comfortable attending Calvert. All we do is pray for our Bishop Francis, and that’s something I’m very pleased to do. More importantly, it was time to revisit Isaiah. Last Easter I had just begun talking about depression, taking effective leave throughout spring quarter, and reorienting my life in more positive ways. I read the first reading at the Passion on Good Friday, and wrote about what I felt. It was the first depression piece. I wondered at verse 10, “But the Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity.” And I asked:
- How can the Lord be pleased to see infirmity?
- Is infirmity part of the plan?
- Is my infirmity God’s will?
- If the Lord is pleased to crush him, is He pleased to crush me?
This year, I obviously wasn’t reading, but am friends with the reader. As we chatted beforehand in the lounge, I said I would be writing about what I felt. I consider him a good reader, and was not disappointed. I could hear a bit of physical strain, from the flu, and that helped – a Suffering Servant song should not be read like an alpha male. Yet it wasn’t desparate and struggling, like how I read last year. The words were strong, descriptive, and patient, serving more of a reminder of Christ’s action of atonement, and less of an association with the suffering. From a pastoral perspective, his reading was better than mine; although sometimes it seems otherwise, a majority of U of C people are not in despair. The key phrase I heard was that “he was spurned” in verse 3, twice repeated with strength and pause. That’s an interesting choice, and would be worth talking about. In his journal. This is mine.
I tried to be solemn, but I’m not very good at it, and wound up thinking about last year, and got all teary-eyed. Compared to last year, my life is so much better. I’m healthier, about 15 pounds lighter. Not just depression starvation loss, either; four months of gym cycling have improved my shape. I’m sleeping better; the artificial sun lamp allows me to have day and night, even if my “day” starts around 10:30. I realized that academic melancholy and submission are not normative, and I don’t have to try to act that way. I have a larger friend network of more compatible people, and I’ve even been fortunate enough to meet a couple beautiful ones. I’ve managed with help to reorient myself, towards happiness and joy. People have started to comment on how I sound happier, look better, have the light that stands out again. It was a long, lost two years that have ended for now, and I hope for ever. Because of that, I look forward to Sunday morning sunrise service as an indicator of my recreation. Not in the “redemption for the sins of others” sense, of course; the “fufillment of the promise and the talents”. Can I answer the questions I left unanswered a year ago? Some well, some still stump me. But let’s try.
- How can the Lord be pleased to see infirmity? God isn’t. He is pleased to see Jesus’s free choice of sacrifice and suffering. Infirmity is merely a side effect.
- Is infirmity part of the plan? Not at first. The concepts of Original Sin and free will cover the hole pretty well. Free will lets us turn away from goodness. Original Sin brought (and brings) evil and suffering and infirmity into the world. I’m not arguing for literal Biblicism, but I don’t need a cause, since I’m a statistician not a historian. However it got here, the plan has it now.
- Is my infirmity God’s will? Still not sure. My chemistry is fragile. But was that planned, to give me different gifts and experiences, or an artifact of the process? That’s a mystery.
- If the Lord is pleased to crush him, is He pleased to crush me? No. At least, I hope not. And having that hope is a great gift.