I walked along the mountain
With the city out below
I could see where you were
But I was trapped up here
Recently, as in the last 5 years or so, there has been quite a complicated emotional battle taking place inside me. Much like more earthly wars this one has hot and cold points and often you wouldn’t even know there was a war going on if you didn’t know better. I am of the opinion that sharing and exploring emotional issues is a key part of recovery, and also of assisting others to deal with their problems. As I have been fortunate (or unfortunate?) to discover I am hardly alone in self-loathing and sadness. For me the problems have always come from inside but are most directly noticeable in my relationships with women and the often spectacular failures they have proven to be. However, there is something much deeper at work in all of this, namely, a belief at my core that I am unworthy of love, affection, coupled with an intense need for acceptance and reassurance. Often when I get the second part of that equation I reject it because of the first, I want to be loved but I won’t accept it. Again I am not alone in feelings this way (as much as I might want to be, in order to feel special) but as my friends and acquaintances slowly become coupled, engaged, and married I feel more and more like a solitary voyager. Recently, as I sabotaged another potential relationship, I came to realize that I don’t really want the one thing I want most, at least not in a healthy way. The complexity of that situation makes it difficult to write about, but it will suffice to say that the hurricane that is me greatly hinders my chance of becoming involved with a suitable mate. Of course I have slowly been trying to deal with the situation, but my progress is not only slow, it is often regressive. One week I am satisfied and full, and the next I am desolate and empty.
So what will I do about all this? It is hard to say that exactly right now, but much like my first post, which introduced a theological topic, I would like to do that here. For some time I have been contemplating a theological reflection on the state of sorrow and depression. I do not wish to justify a serious and life threatening mental illness. Much like with anorexia I merely hope to open another door for inquiry into mental illness. Dating back to the psalms, the Book of Job, and other biblical texts, there is a Judaeo-Christian framework for asking questions about sadness. The Jews were not afraid to ask good not only why me, but why not someone else more deserving. Questioning God is a lost art among most Christians who have become resigned to a God who needs to be babied and worshiped all the time. Thus for my reflection I would like to ask God precisely that question, why me? Like many before me I will look to Job for that answer, and what I find is not always satisfactory.
Job’s friends were quite insistent that he must have sinned somehow, otherwise why would God punish him. This worldview represented an older tradition that saw God has just because sinners were punished and the righteous were rewarded. Of course the reality was that justice was anything but fair, and the righteous were just as likely to be poor as rich (perhaps more so?) and great sinners were rewarded with kingdoms and riches. It is rather obvious from this story (and life itself) that this form of cosmic fairness is not real. Job protests the gross unfairness of his situation (as many have before and since!) and he receives an answer directly from God (how wonderful!). The response is quite unsatisfactory if you expect a clear cut insight into the mystery of suffering. God essentially says “I created all this, I can do all these things you can’t, so shut up and accept that you can’t understand your own suffering.” That is obviously oversimplifying the text, but I think it presents the general idea.
I am not one to accept that I can’t control something, or understand a mood or feeling, so I have to probe deeper. The idea that God has some big master plan that accounts for suffering has never been particular comforting for me. Neither is a theology that claims that God has marvelous plans for me on earth because I am a Christian. These just don’t sit right with me. So what is MY answer to the eternal question of suffering. I have to side with God on this one and say I don’t know, and maybe I can’t know. Sometimes I learn from my suffering, and sometimes I just suffer. Perhaps the best part of suffering is the personal reflection it can create, but that is not guaranteed to happen every time I suffer. Often, just like a Counting Crows song, I’m left wondering why everyone seems so happy and together, and I’m still so alone, just trying to have a little fun, still looking for a girl.