I’m trying to write a new post about depression and doubt. One does not do this without referencing Leonard Cohen and Ernest Hemingway. I looked up some old posts for reference, only to find that I’d written this almost a year ago to the day:
I can’t say that my medical situation is exactly the same as it was then, but I feel a year better, at least, about almost everything.
Below is what I started with this morning before going back.
For me, doubt is never about the veracity of some narrative. I suppose that’s because the living Christ is the only thing I really believe in. I suppose it’s because I feel connected to the prophetic witness and movement of the Holy Spirit. Or perhaps I am drawn to these realities specifically because I can’t fathom the idea that the salvation of the world depends on getting this or that narrative right. I want to experience what Jesus experienced of God, and what his followers experienced of him. I want to do what he did. I don’t have time for anything else.
For me, doubt isn’t waking up and fearing that the stories we were raised on aren’t true. I don’t care about that. Doubt, for me, is far more insidious. It has to do with waking up and worrying that everything I fought for yesterday doesn’t matter, or, worse, would embarrass Ernest Hemingway. I’m talking about a specific, latent, and under-discussed anxiety that often turns young Christian or Muslim or just plain earnest men into misogynists: the fear of spiritual conviction as masculine failure. In the West at least, men are inevitably trained to worry about this. We are trained not only to believe that our worth as men or as people has everything to do with supposedly gender-bound responsibilities of provision to our families and sexual gratification to ourselves, but that the bald pursuit of both at any cost is somehow noble, right, and good. Spirituality (like nurturing) is better left to women. When we do pursue spiritual matters, God (God!) forbid we allow ourselves to cede equal ground to women or their equal standing before God. God forbid we affirm the radical hunches of Paul or the radical directives of Jesus. If we’re already concerned that spirituality (or anything not manifesting as apathy) makes us cruiser-weight chumps in the war of each against all, we’re not likely to admit women (or gay men, for that matter) can do that shit as well as us, period.
If you’ve ever felt this way, please know that hyper-masculine Neo-Calvinism won’t help. This isn’t about embracing a beefed-up vision of Jesus but about reclaiming an honest one. He fought the law and the law won. And then he won. On the dark mornings of my soul, waking up means having to remember that the radical potency of insubordination and insurrection isn’t just the point of Jesus’ witness, but of this “work in progress called life.” The point of life, as best as I can see it, isn’t found in the catechisms of J.M. Barrie, Martin Luther, or Ulrich Zwingli. It’s found in the life and work of someone like Jesus, killed for daring to free the world from the scarcity model.
That’s no small thing. It’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of. It won’t net you a sports car or pension or the kind of disposable relationships we sometimes crave. It may, however, net you some life and in that sense, abundance.