Snapshots of My Depression #3: Awards Night

This is one in a series of posts I’m calling “Snapshots of my Depression.” These are memories of times in my life when my mental illness manifested itself in one way or another.

I wish I could remember the details. I really don’t. All I know is that I was miserable. It was awards night in ninth grade, and I did not want to be there. This photo that was published in the local paper tells the story pretty well:

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That’s me second from the right. Look how excited I was to be named “Most Outstanding Boy”! That’s not me being serious or serene. That’s me being grumpy. I remember there were dozens of awards handed out that evening, and I received several of them. You’d think that would make me happy. But I have always had a strange relationship with this sort of recognition.

It’s not that I was shy. While I’m certainly an introvert, I’ve never been particularly shy. And it’s not that I didn’t think I earned academic honors. I knew that I was smart. I knew that I’d achieved excellent grades. And it’s not that I just hated awards. There was a part of me (not visible in this photo) that has always appreciated being recognized. But there has also always been this part that hates it, hates it, hates it.

I still feel that way. Just a few years ago, when I was officially installed as pastor of my current congregation, it was a wonderful day. The congregation put together an excellent celebration dinner, and gave me some very thoughtful and generous gifts.

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A walking stick and an iPad. It didn’t take long for them to know me well!

I deeply appreciated it, and still do. But there was also a piece of me that felt afterwards, “I didn’t deserve any of that.” There was a voice inside me that said, “Look how much faith they have in you. You will very seriously disappoint them.” There was a voice that said, “I wish they hadn’t gone to all this trouble. Then when they find out who I really am, the disappointment would have been less.” Now, I’ve gotten much better at hiding these feelings. I certainly didn’t stand up front that day with a scowl on my face. But trust me…afterward, that scowl was there. Afterward, I was so upset that they gave me so much, that they believed in me so much, that they trusted me so much.

Because that voice kept on telling me, “You will disappoint them. You always give a good audition. You always give a good job interview. You always impress people with your potential. But then you blow it. All you are is potential. Potential that never, ever works out.” And while there is certainly some evidence to show that I do sometimes fail to live up to potential, there is also tons of evidence to show that the opposite is often true as well. My potential does work out a good amount of the time. That voice is a liar. But damn, it is convincing.

And I think maybe that’s what was going on in ninth grade. Maybe I was hearing an early iteration of that same voice, the one that never believes that I fulfill my potential, the one that thinks of me as a sham, a con artist, a poseur. I really don’t remember. I just remember being miserable. Just wishing I wasn’t there. And I remember that photo…wow, that photo just haunts me.

An American Lutheran or a Lutheran American?

I have lived in a “parsonage” of sorts for my whole life, living in one way or another the life of a professional religious person. I spent my childhood literally in two parsonages, the son of a Lutheran Church in America (from 1988 on, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) pastor. I attended an ELCA-affiliated college (though I did not find Muhlenberg to be particularly “Lutheran”). I attended an ELCA seminary right out of college, despite not wanting at that point to be a pastor. (More on that saga someday, I promise.) From seminary, I went straight into full-time church work. I was a Director of Christian Education/Pastoral Assistant for five years, and then went straight from there into finishing my training to finally become a pastor, which I have now been for nine years. The church has been in my blood since I was born. I love the church. I love the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I love the congregations that have nourished me, and which I have served. I love the synods I have been part of, and the youth programs of those synods that have contributed to who I am. The church is my home, my family, my culture, and in a way, my nation. The church is, in a way, my nation. That’s a weird thing to say, and the weirdest thing is…I didn’t intend to write it. But I suppose there’s some truth to it, and I think it may inform what I really want to talk about today.

I want to talk about the problematic relationship between the church and American culture, and more specifically, the problematic relationship between worship and cultural holidays. Today is the day before Memorial Day, and so it’s on my mind. Every time Memorial Day, July 4, or Veterans Day approach, I shudder as I meet with the Minister of Music to plan the service, because I know that there are people in the congregation who want to sing patriotic songs as hymns. I hesitate as I prepare my sermons, because I worry that people might be upset if I don’t preach about the greatness of America. I tremble as I begin announcements in worship, because I don’t know how far I have to go in recognizing the holiday to keep people from being upset. (Do I ask all veterans to stand? Do I wish people a “happy” Memorial Day, or a “blessed” one? Do I offer a special prayer for America, or for military personnel?) I feel as though I’m being watched, judged, that I have to give a certain amount of attention to these holidays, or face being labeled “unpatriotic” or “un-American.” I feel like I’m a politician, who has to make sure to find a way to make everyone happy. And to some extent, I do that. I always try to refer to the holiday in my sermon. Sometimes I will grudgingly allow “America the Beautiful” to be the final hymn. But it always seems like a balancing act.

Because there’s the other part of me that knows that patriotism expressed in the context of weekly worship comes treacherously close to blasphemy and idolatry. I know that the purpose of weekly worship is not to make people “feel good.” The purpose of worship is not to be the place where good citizens come to begin their week. The purpose of worship is not for the people to hear the preacher expound on a topic of interest.

The purpose of weekly worship is to proclaim Christ crucified and risen.

Plain and simple. The purpose of worship is to proclaim Christ crucified and risen. And everything in worship is to point in that direction. Scripture readings point to this. Sermons point to this. Hymns point to this. Prayers point to this. The sacraments point to this. And I am so hesitant to allow anything to turn us away from this. And honestly, songs whose main purpose is to sing the praises of a country, even if they mention God, are not Christian hymns. And honestly, there is no place for such songs within the context of weekly worship. They just muddy the water. They confuse the purpose of worship.

Don’t get me wrong. Christians can certainly be patriotic! And the church can certainly offer patriotic programs or services at a time other than regular weekly worship. There is nothing wrong at all with hosting a Memorial Day service of remembrance, or a “hymn sing” of patriotic songs on the afternoon of the Sunday nearest July 4. But these ought never replace the worship of Jesus Christ the crucified and risen Lord. And these patriotic programs ought never be intertwined with that worship either. There is enough America-worship out in our culture. The church does not need to add to it by confusing the worship of God with the celebration of our nation’s history.

Now, here’s where the first paragraph of this post comes into play. I recognize that I have a deep cultural, family, almost ethnic, almost patriotic, connection to the ELCA, and that this connection is not something that is shared by many people, even many who are faithful, active church members. And that’s not because I’m a better Lutheran, or a better Christian, or because of anything at all except my own personal background, my own upbringing. Like being an Eagles fan because you were raised in Philadelphia. My blood flows Reformation red because of an accident of my history. My veins don’t flow with red, white, and blue. Again, don’t get me wrong. I am glad to be an American. I like America a lot. I am very proud of the ideals that our founders based the country’s constitution on, and I do want America to become the nation they envisioned. But I don’t have a patriotic connection to it the way I do to the church.

But I recognize that many people do. Many people do have blood that flows red, white, and blue, and that’s great. And many of those people also happen to be faithful Christians, active church members, and that’s great. And I think I can understand why for them, this whole problem I have with patriotism intertwining with worship seems at best like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, and at worst like I’m being unpatriotic and ungrateful. To them, there is nothing wrong with singing “America the Beautiful” in worship, because it’s just a song that brings them joy…it doesn’t mean that they worship America. I’m just guessing.

And maybe I am wrong. I don’t think I am in this case, but maybe I am. I guess what I’ve learned through writing this post is that we all carry so much baggage, so much stuff in our history that informs who we are and how we view one another. We all have our core that we identify as, and mine is as an ELCA Lutheran (who just happens to be American). Others identify themselves as Americans (who just happen to be ELCA Lutherans). Every year around the major patriotic holidays, I find myself struggling with this distinction, and maybe that’s the way it should be. The church has always had a complicated relationship with empire, with culture, with nation. Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

God bless America. God bless the church. God bless us all.

P.S. I thought I’d also be talking here about my problems with Mother’s Day in the church. And Valentine’s Day. That’ll have to wait for another day. Lucky you!

Faith that is not misplaced

This is an adapted version of the sermon I preached today, the 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The gospel text was Luke 7:1-10. It’s also the day before Memorial Day.

I have never served in the military. But I believe that it must take great courage to serve in the armed forces. And I believe that in order to find that courage, men and women who serve must have a great deal of faith. And I don’t mean faith in God. Certainly there have been brave men and women who served their country well, but who did not share our faith in God. But I think in order to have the courage to fight for your country, to risk your life for your country, to give your life for your country, you must have faith in that country, faith in what your nation stands for, faith that your nation and its people are something worth putting your life on the line.

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And I believe that part of what Americans do on Memorial Day is proclaim that the courage and bravery of those who died in military service was not in vain. Proclaim that their sacrifice was not wasted. Proclaim that the ideals of our nation and its people were worth it. Proclaim that the faith they had in our nation was not misplaced.

And while that does not take away the grief that their loved ones feel, it can make that grief easier to bear. It gives meaning to their deaths. Meaning to their sacrifice. Meaning to their service. And it shows those loved ones that they are not alone. That their faith is not misplaced either.

In today’s gospel reading, we meet a centurion.

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A centurion was kind of a mid-level soldier in the Roman army. He was in command of about a hundred troops, and he himself was under the command of someone else. And in this story, this centurion discovers that his faith was not misplaced. But the faith I’m talking about here is not his faith in his nation, the Roman Empire. This particular centurion also had faith in Jesus. It’s really not clear where he got that faith. Or how he even knew about Jesus. But one way or another, he was convinced that Jesus had the power to heal, and that if asked, Jesus would heal the centurion’s ill slave.

And this faith was strong. So strong that he simply asked. He sent some people to say to Jesus, “Please come heal my slave.” He didn’t ask, “Are you able to?” Or, “Is there anything you can do?” He simply said, “Please, come and do this.” And he didn’t even expect Jesus to come all the way to his home. Instead, as Jesus was approaching, the centurion sent out more messengers, and they told Jesus this: “The centurion says, ‘I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. Just say the word, and my servant shall be healed.’” Now that’s faith. Jesus even said so. Jesus was amazed. “I’ve never seen such faith, not even among my own people,” Jesus said.

And this faith was not misplaced. Jesus did heal the servant, without even stepping foot in the centurion’s home. What the centurion believed about Jesus was true. His faith was fulfilled.

Can we imagine having that kind of faith in Christ? The kind of faith that simply asks him for what we need, trusting completely that we will receive it? It’s hard to imagine. And certainly we should not have exactly the same faith the centurion did. For we know from experience that Jesus won’t always cure our sick friends. In fact, three years ago, the last time this reading came up, I talked about how we can’t count on Jesus to cure us, but we can count on receiving healing.

We can count on receiving the healing that Christ always offers to us, the healing of our spirits, the healing of our souls.

And so if we trust that God will cure our bodies, and keep us safe from all diseases, we will be disappointed. But if we trust that God will be with us in the midst of any illness, and that we will receive the wholeness and courage to get through it, then our faith will be fulfilled. God will do that.

And if we trust that God will keep our loved ones from dying, and prevent us from ever having to mourn, we will be disappointed. But if we trust that God will be with us in the midst of our mourning, and that we will find hope and peace, then our faith will be fulfilled. God will do that.

And if we trust that God will bless our nation with perfect leaders and a perfect economy, and perfect safety, we will be disappointed. But if we trust that God will bless America with citizens who are bold enough to stand up for what is right, and with citizens who are brave enough to risk their lives for what is right, then our faith will be fulfilled. God will do that.

As long as our faith in God is in the things God has promised, our faith is most certainly not misplaced. And here is what God has promised:

  • Forgiveness for all our sins.
  • Hope in the midst of anything.
  • Meaning for our lives and for our deaths.
  • Love
  • Courage
  • Salvation
  • And God has promised to be with us. That we are never alone.

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Trust in those things. Trust in the promises God has made, and your faith will be fulfilled.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been playing video games. It’s something of an addiction of mine. It’s not an addiction that’s taken a lot of my money; I don’t have any game consoles or game-dedicated computers. For the most part, I play browser-based games, and recently, free or very cheap games on my iPad and phone. The games I play are usually categorized as “casual” games, the sort of game that you can pick up, play a level or two, and then put down. Good games to play while waiting in line somewhere. That’s not to say that I would call myself a casual gamer. While I play casual games, I think I get too easily caught up in them for what I do to be called casual. In fact, as I write this, I’m bouncing back and forth between this tab and a tab in which I’m playing the game Keep Craft.

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I’ve come a long way since Pac-Man. Err…no, maybe not.

Like I said, I haven’t spent much money on video games, but boy have I spent a lot of time on them. And if it’s true what I hear about multitasking (that it actually significantly diminishes your efficiency with both (or all) tasks), then I’m really in trouble.

Over the last few years, I’ve developed a fondness for games involving upgrades. I enjoy games where part of what you’re trying to do is beat a level to earn money (or some other in-game currency, like “energy” or whatever), and then spend that currency on upgrades for your character, which thus enables you to beat ever-higher levels. For a while, I spent most of my gaming time at Kongregate, a website with probably forty-five million upgrade-style games.

But of late, I’ve been very attracted to a subset of upgrade games that are called incremental games, or sometimes idle games, or sometimes clicker games. These games take the idea of upgrades to its limit, as the entire game is almost literally just one upgrade after another. The gameplay of an incremental game is quite simply:

  • Gain currency through clicking something, or just patiently waiting for the currency to slowly accrue,
    • in order to buy upgrades,
      • in order to gain currency more quickly,
        • in order to buy more expensive upgrades,
          • in order to even more quickly gain currency,
            • in order to buy even more expensive upgrades.

Sometimes there are multiple forms of currency (see the photo above from Keep Craft for an example with dozens of currencies), but for as complicated as that screenshot might look on first glance, the gameplay is really the same.

Some incremental games also have a feature called “prestige” or “legacy,” wherein you can reset your game after you’ve played it for a while. Depending on how much of a particular currency you have when you reset, you gain some special upgrade for the next time you play it through. This enables some incremental games to be played for months on end without reaching the end. Really, prestige is just another layer of upgrades added to a game that’s like an onion…peel back the layer, and there’s no core to it: just more and more levels of upgrades. The games that I find to be favorites are the ones that don’t even have the pretense of graphics or storyline…just a whole bunch of raw numbers and data.

There’s not a whole lot of skill involved in these games. There’s not really a way to lose. Every tick of your computer’s clock increases your currency, and all you do is every now and then click something to make that increase even better. It’s like an endless march of progress, like the promise of the modern era. Progress could not be stopped, it was said. From Wikipedia: “The modern era is closely associated with the development of individualism, capitalism, urbanization and a belief in the possibilities of technological and political progress.” Individualism, capitalism, technological progress. That’s incremental games in a nutshell. And I think I know why I’m so obsessed with these games these days.

It’s because I’m not a modern person at all; I’m postmodern through and through. I have no belief in progress. I have no expectation that I will be “better off” than my parents, nor that my kids will be “better off” than I. I don’t even really understand the concept, to be honest. The modern period is over. Progress has been shown to be bunk. Things aren’t better today than they once were. And they’re not worse either. They’re just different. Every generation has to deal with its own set of garbage. Yes, we have extraordinary medicine today compared to fifty years ago, which is awesome…but we also have more terrorism. Yes, we have an obscene amount of prejudice in America against certain groups of people, which is terrible…but we don’t have legal slavery anymore. Some things improve, some things get worse. And it our generation’s turn to deal with our particular set of crap, and to use our generation’s particular blessings to do so. We’re all born into our own existence, right now, right here. It’s all we have to work with, and it’s all we have to do. And it all feels so risky and dangerous. I’m not scared of “the world today.” I really don’t give much thought to crime and terrorism and such “getting me.” The sheer odds against it are staggering, despite the prevalence it’s given on news programs. No, what I find dangerous is choices, decisions. I have a huge fear that my choices could be catastrophic, and being as postmodern and existentialist as I am, I find little foundation on which to base my choices. There is no foundation to stand on. There never really was. There is no handbook. (Sorry, fellow Christians…the Bible never was a handbook. It’s a story of God’s steadfast love and covenant with God’s people, not an instruction book for how to go to heaven.) All choices are ad hoc choices.

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This image just makes me happy.

But sometimes I think I want to escape from that. Sometimes I want to pretend that I’m in a world where things do get better all the time, where progress is real, where there is no real risk. And incremental games do that for me. I have to be careful how much time I spend there, so I don’t get so inured that I forget that there is a world I need to live in, and work for. But I think that’s why these particular games are important to me right now…they show me a dream world where things always get better. And in which my actions make a difference. And in which there is very little question about what the right actions are.

And if these games are a dream world for me, at least they’re a safer and better dream world than the one I enter at night. Sometime this week, I dreamt that I was driving down a road trying to avoid getting hit by not one, but two, tornadoes. (In an incremental game, the tornadoes would never get me, but I would slowly, slowly grow strong enough that I would be able to destroy them with mind bullets.)

Reflections on the Holy Trinity

This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached today, the day of The Holy Trinity. The gospel text was John 16:12-15.

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity tells us that God is One, yet God is also Three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is a mystery. I don’t fully understand it, and I’m not sure anyone does. I couldn’t fully explain it if I tried, but I can talk about it, share some reflections. I have three reflections today about the Holy Trinity.

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Photo via Good Free Photos

Reflection One

The book of Genesis tells us that in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless, swirling void, chaos spilling over itself. And the Spirit of God swept over the face of the waters. At the very beginning, the Holy Spirit was moving, flying, dancing. Genesis tells us that God began to create the world. Not with hands. Not with tools. With Word. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. As the Spirit swept and danced over the waters, the Word of God created order from chaos. As the Spirit swept and danced, the Word of God fashioned a universe. Fashioned life. Fashioned, eventually, us. Think of your own life. Your life began in swirling chaos, just a few cells in a watery womb. God takes those cells, and forms them over time into something we call “you.” In the sacrament of Holy Baptism, we believe that God’s Spirit again sweeps over the face of the water. And we believe God’s Word is there, and that as you are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is speaking, “Let there be light.” And there is. In Baptism, God fashions you into a new creation. A new creation that takes a lifetime to complete. The Holy Trinity, Father, Word, and Spirit, all there, making room for you. Father, Word, and Spirit? Yes, Word, because John wrote this: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and was named Jesus. Jesus, the Son, is the Word of God.

 

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By Andreas Wahra – Own work (own photography), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45328000

Reflection Two

God has a face, a human face. The human face of God is the face of Jesus of Nazareth. And that, to me, means that God is not a child abuser. Let me explain. We call Jesus the Son of God. But the doctrine of the Trinity tells me that Jesus is not God’s son in the same way that Benjamin is my son. If he were, then God would be a terribly abusive father.

Imagine that I wanted to show someone that I loved them. Imagine that I chose to do that by sending my son Benjamin to die for them. Now that would indeed be a sacrifice on my part. I would be very hurt to lose my son that way. But what else would it say about me? Wouldn’t it say that I am a horrible father? Wouldn’t it say that I’m a murderer?

That’s how the death of Jesus can look sometimes. God so loved the world that he sent his son Jesus to suffer for the world. But the doctrine of the Trinity tells us this: Jesus is not only the Son of God; Jesus is God. Jesus is the Word of God, the very face of God. God did not send someone else to suffer for us…God himself entered this world, as Jesus, and God himself suffered for us. Now that, to me, is not abuse, but extravagant, unconditional love.

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Our chancel, at Prince of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church

Reflection Three

This beautiful display adorning our chancel was created for Pentecost. It was created to represent the flames of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the day when the Spirit fell like tongues of fire upon the apostles, and they were given the ability to speak in many languages, to tell the world the good news of Jesus. But I think it is also an excellent image for the Holy Trinity. Because in this image, the flames of the Spirit are flowing directly from the cross. The cross is the central image of the church, and that’s why this cross is so enormous…because it is from the cross, from Christ’s death on the cross, that salvation and redemption were made for the whole world. But nobody would know about that if it weren’t for Pentecost. Nobody would ever have found out what God accomplished on that cross if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit filling the apostles with words, filling them with the ability and the calling to share those words. And the Holy Spirit isn’t just the messenger who tells the news. It’s even better than that. The Holy Spirit doesn’t just spread the news about Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the news about Jesus. The Holy Spirit showers the world with God’s grace. The power that was unleashed when Jesus died on the cross, the power that was unleashed when Jesus was raised from the dead is the very power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the good news of Jesus flowing out of the cross like a waterfall, a waterfall of grace that never ends. A waterfall of grace that flows out and covers the world.

So much for my reflections on the Holy Trinity. Is it clearer now? Maybe, maybe not. But the Trinity is not something for us to understand, but for us to trust and to worship. .

One Crazy Email

I really wanted to post something tonight, and I just couldn’t figure out what to write about. So I dug deep into the crevices of my computer. I am a digital packrat. I keep everything I’ve ever created on a computer. I have copies of every email I’ve sent and received since 1996. I have old documents…old photos…old sound files I downloaded from AOL, back when I used to have an account with them I never paid for. *ahem* Of course, that’s not true. *ahem* I would never do that.

Anyway…I just found this. It’s an email I sent to a friend in October 1997. I was in my first semester at seminary, and I was feeling like I didn’t fit it. At that time, I did not really want to be a pastor; I just wanted to learn theology. I was even questioning my faith at the time. Seminary is…well, it’s an interesting place to be when you’re questioning your faith. I’d venture to say that I had zero classmates who shared that doubt, at least zero who were willing to talk about it. (Incidentally, my father attended seminary in the early 1970’s. I remember him telling me once that it was an interesting time to be there, because there were a number of folks who were there primarily to avoid the draft. I wonder if I might have found more kindred spirits back then…) I was also living in Philadelphia, an unfamiliar city. (Prior to this, I had thought that the West End of Allentown, where I attended college, was the big city.) I was connected to friends and family via email, but little else. In retrospect, it was actually a pretty powerful and exciting time in my life. In the moment, I felt lonely.

Anyway…a friend emailed me from her college in New England. Her message was longer, more intimate, and more profound than anything she’d shared with me before. She was reaching out for connection, I think, something I was so looking for myself. In her message, she wondered if she would be happier if she were “crazy.” I wrote this in response. Almost twenty years later, I enjoy reading it:

Crazy. I know crazy. Crazy is when you hear a song lyric, and it fits your life better than that of the author. Crazy is when you hear your name whistling in the wind. When you realize how similar we all are, and how much the human race is just one person in a billion bodies, crazy is that leftover stuff inside you that doesn’t fit in with anyone else. Crazy is what you do when you look in the mirror with no one else around. All the bits in your life which you DON’T KNOW if anyone else shares, all the things that you think make you YOU, but somewhere deep down wonder if everyone else feels the same way. And there’s no way to find out if somebody else is the same way… this is what drives us crazy. Embrace it, and lose touch. Ignore it, and lose touch. Or ride the line of fear and excitement, the line between ignorance and embracing, and go crazy. Write an email about it, and wonder if what you’re saying makes any sense. Wonder if there’s really anyone out there who could know what you’re saying. Wonder if you’d even understand it if you read it tomorrow. Wonder if you should even mail it. Do it anyway. Either she’ll think you’re crazy, or she’ll know you both are. Either way, if you share it, you’re crazy.

All day I searched for a way to respond to your mail. I looked on Germantown Avenue, as I drove to church. I found only a place called Freedom Square. I looked at church, listening to the sermon of the supply preacher. I found only a miserable attempt to connect with people in a new way, gone horribly awry by an incredible lack of preaching ability mixed with an exorbitant age. I listened in the radio on the way back, and heard only a strange new song by U2 about God, and a strange cover of the Peter Gabriel song “In Your Eyes,” which I’ve always held is about God. I looked in my fellow seminarians watching football, and found only proof that I am crazy. Crazy to be at seminary, crazy to think I could be a pastor, crazy to be alive. Alive to be crazy.

All I found today was loneliness. Loneliness in my friends here. Loneliness in the warmth all over outside, covering the chills who rightfully owns October. Loneliness in the reading I did for my classes, the loneliness of the Bible, the story of a mythical people who may or may not have existed, who may or may not have been the chosen people of a God who may or may not have existed, and, if so, may or may not be the same God who may or may not exist today. And my own estrangement from all this.

I am lonely as well. Lonely because I saw my two best friends from Muhlenberg yesterday at Homecoming, and I know things will never be the same again between us. Lonely because I don’t know anyone here well enough to cry in front of them, which in turn gives me the only reason I have to cry. Lonely because I know I have to stop this pipe dream of being a pastor, a pipe dream I don’t even dream. Lonely because no one here feels the same way. Lonely because everything I know is arbitrary. Lonely because you reached out to me in a way you never have before, and in reaching back, I’m still hundreds of miles, and hundreds of mails, away.

And this is what it means to be crazy, in my craziness (opinion). I am embracing it now. Depeche Mode sang, as I wrote that line, “Only you exist here.” This is what I always called “gothic.” This is the real version of that. I’ve got nail polish, and black makeup, and black clothing, and a forced painful frown on, but only on the inside. I’ve finally succeeded in internalizing this. It’s always been here. I’ve finally given it a name.

Tomorrow I may regret mailing this, but tonight I am crazy, I suppose. This is not ridicule, and this is not fake in any way. This is me, right now. I’m showing you what craziness can be. It is black, and it is purple, and blue, and green. Love it, if you will. Thank you for giving me an interesting day.

I just checked, and it looks like the next time she emailed me was exactly 364 days later. Not sure what that means.

Anyway…here’s a picture from the day before I sent this email. It’s me and the two friends I mentioned. That’s me on the right, in the dapper denim combo.

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Sheesh. I think I still have that shirt. I think I wore it last week.

Snapshots of My Depression #2: The Care Team

This is one in a series of posts I’m calling “Snapshots of my Depression.” These are memories of times in my life when my mental illness manifested itself in one way or another.

When I was in junior high school, the school had something called “The Care Team.” Or maybe it was the “CARE Team,” an acronym for something or other. I have no idea what it might have stood for. But here’s what it was: a group of teachers and staff whose mission was to identify students who were having trouble due to drug addiction or mental illness, and to connect those students with appropriate resources to help them. I remember learning about the CARE team in Health class in ninth grade, and how students could refer other students to the team…I think perhaps it was a new program that year. I have no idea if they succeeded in helping any kids or not. But they certainly tried. They tried to help me.

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