Depression

One of the most precious of the Psalms seems to be one of the least known as well as one of the shortest. It is Psalm 131. "O Lord, my heart is not lifted up," is the way it begins, "my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me."

To be in a state of depression is like that. It is to be unable to occupy yourself with anything much except your state of depression. Even the most marvelous thing is like music to the deaf. Even the greatest thing is like a shower of stars to the blind. You do not raise either your heart or your eyes to the heights, because to do so only reminds you that you are yourself in the depths. Even if, like the Psalmist, you are inclined to cry out "O Lord," it is a cry like Jonah's from the belly of a whale.

"But I have calmed and quieted my soul," he continues then, and you can't help thinking that, although maybe that's better than nothing, it's not much better. Depression is itself a kind of calm, as in becalmed, and a kind of quiet, as in a quiet despair.

Only then do you discover that he is speaking of something entirely different. He says it twice to make sure everybody understands. "Like a child quieted at its mother's breast," he says, and then again "like a child that is quieted is my soul." A kind of blessed languor that comes with being filled and somehow also fulfilled; the sense that no dark time that has ever been and no dark time that will ever be can touch this true and only time; shalomsomething like that is the calm and quiet he has found. And the Lord in whom he has found it is the Lady Mother of us all. It is from her breast that he has drunk it to his soul's quieting.

Finally he tells us that hope is what his mouth is milky with, hope, which is to the hopelessness of depression what love is to the lovesick and lovelorn. "O Israel, hope in the Lord," he says, "from this time forth and for evermore." Hope like Israel. Hope for deliverance the way Israel hoped and you are already half delivered. Hope beyond hope, andlike Israel in Egypt, in Babylon, in Dachauyou hope also beyond the bounds of your own captivity, which is what depression is.

Hope in the Father who is the Mother, the Lady who is the Lord. Do not raise your eyes too high, but lower them to that holy place within you where you are fed and quieted, to that innermost manger where you are yourself the Child.

 

~ originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words