Monday, April 30, 2007

honoring depression

Last night I led a growth group session. We had a good time talking together, as we always do. Several of us shared deeply personal stories. I shared. I mentioned that depression began for me many years ago when I was in therapy for child abuse.

There are a couple of therapists in the growth group as well as others who are wise. Several responded to my mention of depression, telling me to honor the depression. They said depression is a time for grieving, in my case, grieving the abuse I experienced as a child and grieving the fact that I never had a father with whom I could feel safe. With him there was always the risk of being beaten or ridiculed or both.

I had never before heard that depression was something to honor. I had been told and had read that depression is "anger turned inward." I recognize that anger is an appropriate emotion to have toward at my father for abusing me (as well as my mother). (Of course, that anger has to be handled carefully, not destructively, and not transferred to others who had nothing to do with my father's abuse.) I assumed that my depression over the years was anger turned inward since this is what the experts had said about depression.

But I appreciate the new insight my growth group friends gave me last night, that depression is something to honor. I know it is appropriate to continue to grieve that I did not have the kind of father every child deserves. Having been through child abuse, then therapy for it, I am better equipped to be that kind of a father and grandfather.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

feeling the hug

Today, as part of my normal work, I was checking translation to another language of part of the Bible. It was Mark 9:36, which reads this way in the Good News Translation:
Then he took a child and had him stand in front of them. He put his arms around him and said to them
As I read those words I was struck by the fact that Jesus put his arms around a child. The thought popped into my mind: "that could have been me there as a little child." For perhaps the first time in my life I started to realize at an emotional level that Jesus would have hugged me, too, if I had been there. It's been difficult for me to connect with God emotionally. I want to, but it is difficult, I assume because I was abused by my father. It is difficult for me to believe that others can really love me and especially that God can. Part of me wanted to just keep moving on in my work to check the next part of the translation. But another part of me kept urging me to linger on that image of Jesus hugging me. So I did for a bit. Maybe another time I can linger longer.

This evening I told my wife that I had had a special experience while working today. I began telling her about what I just wrote here. When I started explaining about Jesus hugging me, I choked up. Some tears came. It felt real, like I was getting in touch with something that I've been missing all my life.

Maybe some of you can understand something of this breakthrough for me today. I still have much farther to go to emotionally understand and accept that God loves me and would hug me, just as my wife, children, grandchildren, and some special friends do. I know it with my head, but I need to know it in a way that affects me emotionally, so that I don't feel so much rejection and self-condemnation.