Before I open my eyes this morning I hear the rain lapping at the roof. The sky is gray and filled with endless weeping. Holy week has been a series of storms and I am tired. Good Friday—day of suffering and day of hope, day of darkness and light, day of grief and day of joy. Day of the cross.
Last night, for Maundy Thursday service, I shared a brief homily about the mandatum novum—the new command Jesus gave his disciples the night of the Last Supper: You also should love one another. All the while I was aware of my own gaping lack thereof.
I lost my temper early in the week. On Palm Sunday, I stood in our living room and let anger course through me and out of me and fall like a dagger into his heart. When you love someone who has depression everything becomes about them. Every decision is seen through the gray cloud of how they will be affected; problem-solving narrows down to two choices—black or white, and there is little discussion not met with predictions of certain disaster. Depression makes the world very small and possibility impossible. This would appear to be a selfish thing if the one suffering was choosing this way, but they are not aware of the blinders they wear. To gently suggest alternative ways of thinking, ways of seeing—this can become a heavy burden after a time.
I buckled under the weight. And in the doing so added those heavy stones of regret and shame. Love felt far away.
For Jesus, love was not only a feeling. It meant action. It meant putting hand to the plow of love and planting its seeds. Jesus loved by caring for the unloved—by eating with outcasts and sinners, by healing the untouchables and challenging legalism. He stretched the boundaries of what we know of love.
Love one another.
He called it a new command, but it wasn’t new, was it? He had already told them that the greatest commandment was to love—both God and neighbor. But this word, this word translated as “new” in the scripture? It means, “new as respect to form or substance; fresh, uncommon, unprecedented…”
Was Jesus telling us to find new ways to show love? Creative ways, ways that make people sit up and notice? Was he saying, “don’t stop with the usual, I’m calling for more than candy and flowers here. Any little way you can show love … do it.” Choose love when your heart feels least like doing so. Choose love. Get to know your heart intimately and let love be the antidote to every bit of ugly that beats through it. Return hate with love, let love extinguish anger, fight oppression with love, when your heart recoils in disgust, reach out in love.
To love someone with depression means to choose love.
How? It sounds so easy, and some days it is, but other days? That choice is a millstone around my neck. In my devotional this morning I read an essay by Watchman Nee who said, “The secret of deliverance from sin is not to do something but to rest on what God has done.” Because I believe the Easter story, I can do this. When I rest in the work of the cross, I am free. It is because of this freedom that I can then act out of love. But surrender comes first. I realize that my actions are an extension of the grace given by God. I am free to ask forgiveness, I am free to reach across the great expanse depression creates and choose love.
~I need reminded regularly of the bigger picture of God’s love. Read the Good Friday story. Jesus showed love, even from the cross. (“Father, forgive them … ”) Say a prayer of thanks for the redemption he bought.
~What is one way you can choose love today? Think of a new way to show love to the person with depression in your life—a way that cannot be overlooked, one that demands special thought and effort on your part.
~Are you praying scripture?
~Begin to notice when your loved one’s thinking is black and white. Gently suggest alternative ways of seeing things that might open his or her eyes.
**This Friday series contains reflections on loving someone who has Depression. If you are in this place, or know someone who is, I hope you’ll join me in this journey. These words cannot replace medical or psychological treatment, but I hope they will be a source of encouragement.