December 12 Blues
Some days I feel like I'm going straight to hell. No particular reason, I suppose. I'm just going to hell on those days. Which is ironic because I don't believe in the popular flames 'n' pitchforks concept of hell or that I'm a sinner in the hands of an angry God. I just think there has to be something I've forgotten and I'm not going to be able to clear the eternal and infinite hurdles of existence.
Maybe I'm just painfully aware of my faults. Maybe I'm just too self-centered and should forget myself. I figure a life focused on one's self is worthless, but a life spent in consideration of others is beyond value, a precious thing not to be wasted. But that's based on my invisible system of rewards in my mind, something I've heard about but never seen. It's all based on faith, and the most galling aspect of faith is that there's no physical, tangible foundation for its existence.
No matter how many people tell me God exists or doesn't, it's still up to me to choose how to believe things. It's up to me to interpret my experiences. If I'm hallucinating and choose to believe it's real, then it's real to me. If I'm not hallucinating and I choose to not believe it's real, then it vanishes from my sight and from my mind.
Which drags me back to my going to hell dilemma. Once I think I no longer qualify for top consideration in the Big Post-Season Draft in the Sky, then I hit the skids. I can spend time with others and take my mind off my troubles, but then when the people are gone I'm back in the pits. Or, worse, the company has the opposite effect and plunges me deeper while I'm dealing with the nightmares of small talk and polite conversation.
I shouldn't feel that way. It's completely irrational. But I do, anyway. Blame it on chemical imbalances in my brain. Doesn't make it any easier for folks to understand, even though it helps me understand what I'm going through.
And before you dismiss me with an "it's all in your head" argument, let me remind you my immortal soul is at stake here. Tell me I don't have one, and I'll kill myself because it means my existence is ultimately hopeless. Therefore, I need religion to survive: atheists may now agree to disagree with me.
I do believe in a God. I believe he talks to me when I talk to him. I'll allow he doesn't speak to everyone, but he does speak to me. God does exist and plays a part in my life. I've seen his hand in many things. I don't doubt his existence, I just doubt if I'll be able to successfully complete all the checkboxes on my list of things to do in order to get into heaven.
Now, I know there's lots of Christians out there who will jump at the chance to tell me that all I need to do is believe and I'm golden. So when do I know I really do believe? I see complete cads out there who spout the same philosophy and commit terrible deeds I don't even have the stomach to mention, and I'm supposed to believe their profession of faith is sufficient to get them into God's realm? And if one says that faith makes you do certain things when you really do have it, then suddenly it's no longer faith, it's outward expressions that do the trick. You've got a list of checkboxes to fill out, and I don't know if I've really got them all finished off or if I could ever hope to take care of them.
Or maybe it's not where you are, but where you're headed that's important. I say that often enough to console folks who are down in the dumps. OK, so which way am I headed? I tell lots of other people they're on the way up, and I feel that for them, but when people tell me I'm doing fine, I keep thinking they don't know me really. When pressed for details, I'm evasive. I don't want to get into the products of my insanity and how I'm capable of thinking all kinds of strange things I know would have no place in a kingdom of peace and calm. I am anything but peaceful and calm.
And before a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist steps forward to offer another path to me, let me say I've studied those faiths, and I don't think I'd be headed for Ultimate Happiness in any of those faiths. I know I could never qualify for a Muslim's heaven or an Indian higher birth with my life and how I see it. My depression is multi-denominational.
There's just no easy way to Heaven, ever. I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling because I have no idea if I've done enough good or repented fully of my bad. There are days where, yes, I've been a good boy and a loving God smiles as I walk into Heaven. Then I have days where, no, I've fallen short, and a loving God weeps as I walk away from Heaven: still loved, but distant.
So maybe I'm just insane and this will all go away when I die. Or maybe I'm just insane and I remain insane forever because it's not a physical madness but a spiritual rage. And before someone tries to thump a volume of scripture declaring my body will be made whole, I submit again my concern is spiritual, not physical. Whether Heaven's a Christian choir or an annihilating Nirvana, could it be possible my spirit could never, not in an eternity, know those things?
I have yet to hear any ready answers for that concern, except one. That one was, yes, you're stuck with what you got, but you can go on improving if you work at it. That one came very unexpectedly to me one day, but it's the one I like best. I don't get better because God waves a magic wand and POOF! I can now enter into his rest. I get better because God loves me and works with my faults and limitations to help me to grow beyond them and overcome them. I become perfect not by immortal fiat, but through goodness, hard work, and love.
So maybe no, today I can't go to Heaven. Maybe there's no day in my life I'll ever be ready to meet my Maker. But I can still work at that. I have eternity to get better, should I desire to make the effort. Wherever I give up, that's where I stand, forever. If there's some aspect of my mind I have incomplete control over, then when there's a lapse, maybe I don't have to be held accountable for that, so long as I'm willing to extend the same mercies to others.
Maybe there is hope, after all.
I'll have depression again in the future, but knowing I can sometimes write my way out of it is such a blessing. Insane as I am, at least I can make it through the night. I can patiently await the dawn once I find my peace again.
by Dean Webb