I’m annoyed with the Lord. The situation reminds me of a joke about the Holy Family: poor Joseph, whenever anything was wrong in that household, it was GUARANTEED to be his fault. Same deal here: when I’m having a fight with God, He’s not going to be the one who has to apologize when it’s over.
I’m annoyed because of this verse in Psalm 26:
In the day of my distress I will call upon you,
and surely you will hear me.
The verse comes to me often, because it’s part of Compline, which is the one part of the Office that I say regularly. That was me, for two or three months, feeling the same deep sadness every day, saying: Okay, God, this is the day of my distress. I’m calling on you. Where you at?
Only this time he didn’t show; or not in the way I expected. What would have happened if I didn’t take the pills?
I’m sure you’ve heard this story: there’s a flood, and the local pastor is trapped on the roof of his house, watching the water slowly rise. But he’s a man of faith, he knows the Lord will save him. So a canoe comes by, and then a powerboat, and then a helicopter, and each time the pastor says, “No thanks — the Lord will save me.” So finally he drowns, and gets to Heaven, and says “Lord! I had faith in you, but you never showed up!” And the Lord goes “Moron! Who do you think sent the canoe, and the powerboat, and the helicopter?”
So my helicopter was antidepressants. I didn’t expect that. When I made the decision to take them, I had a very clear confirmation that the Lord was, at the very least, okay with that: a friend sent me a text message on the way to the doctor’s that was so well-timed that to call it anything but Providence would be sheer stubbornness. And the things worked. No more gut-gnawing sadness, no more fits of weeping. Sure, I got some low-grade melancholy, but nothing that makes me not me.
So why isn’t that enough? What had I been hoping for?
Here’s a piece by Czeslaw Milosz that says something like what I mean — thanks to Jordan at gaysubtlety for drawing my attention to it:
Come, Holy Spirit,
bending or not bending the grasses,
appearing or not above our heads in a tongue of flame,
at hay harvest or when they plough in the orchards or when snow
covers crippled firs in the Sierra Nevada.
I am only a man: I need visible signs.
I tire easily, building the stairway of abstraction.
Many a time I asked, you know it well, that the statue in church
lift its hand, only once, just once, for me.
But I understand that signs must be human,
therefore call one man, anywhere on earth,
not me — after all I have some decency –
and allow me, when I look at him, to marvel at you.
I’m on vacation at Sal’s place. Sal tells a story of a friend of a friend who, like the man in the flood, is a pastor, a faith-filled Christian all his life. When he’s 75, he sees his cat prowling around the yard, and watches in horror as a hawk swoops down and carries the poor beast off, never to be heard from again.
And the pastor, who can’t believe that a just God would allow such things, loses his faith. Sal and I, who have both been through some pretty tough sh★t, wonder: was this really the first time in all his 75 years that the pastor experienced unrelieved awfulness? How do you get to 75 without feeling, at least once or twice, like the universe is a horrible place where horrible things happen?
In all that time, how do you never notice that whatever the mercy of God means, it doesn’t mean that cats are safe from hawks, or people from agony?
So I know there’s a reason for it, for why I was allowed to slip back into the old darkness, for why it’s not quite over. I know there’s Mercy behind it, something new to understand, some better knowledge of who I am and who God is. I just can’t see it yet.