You Better Like This!   2 comments

Yesterday I told my Facebook friends that I was thinking of fighting winter doldrums by concocting a month long birthday celebration for myself!  I had fun last night brainstorming about all the things I would really like to do.  Imagine my dismay to find myself depressed by those same ideas this morning.  Everything last night I pictured enjoying now seemed burdensome since most things I find really pleasurable—reading, writing, conversing, creating—can be reframed as duties.  I am a master at taking the things that give me joy and reducing them to obligations, draining them of any gratification.  Doing things for sheer delight and living from that motivation seems hedonistic.  Surely duty is a much godlier partner to holiness than pleasure.

As you can see, I have a serious problem with being responsible.  A sense of duty weighed me down all my life, and nothing I did was ever done well enough, never accomplished to the point of satisfaction, but could always be improved.  Each task done inadequately nailed down another proof of my failure and inadequacy as a person—I was not diligent enough, patient enough, thoughtful enough, committed enough.  I was not enough.

Responsibility was the driving force of my life—its energy, direction, cohesion, and measurement—and to its cause everything was sacrificed, even my self.  What I wanted, what would give me joy, was of no consequence, or worse was a temptation against the unending and uncompromising call of duty.  It was God’s will versus my will, and my only choice was to squelch my desires.  It seemed to me clearly taught by Jesus in Scripture with the motto “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.”  What I wanted didn’t matter.  It didn’t matter to God and shouldn’t matter to me.  I had a job to do, and that was all that mattered.  This I believed wholeheartedly: my task is more important than me (and so I am only valued as a person to the extent I fulfill my calling).

Of course, I was reassured that God really did want me to be happy, but on His terms and not my own.  The remedy to my unhappiness was not to be free of duty, but to take pleasure in it.  This seemed less like a solution than an additional problem—not only was I bound to live for God’s satisfaction against my own, but I was also obliged to make this my source of pleasure.  It felt as though I were locked in a sweatshop and ordered to picture it as a cruise in the Caribbean.  I’ve been sitting in this same position for 12 hours: “No, I’m on a cruise!”  I just whacked my thumb with a hammer: “No, I’m on a cruise!”    I don’t know if I’ll get paid enough to buy supper: “I’m on a cruise!”  If this was God’s view, the right view, my only hope was to make it mine as well.  From an early age I tried desperately to make this work, fighting hard against opposing feelings which apparently sprang from the blindness of my sin nature.  In the end, my emotions mutinied.

Depression, four years of profound and unremitting depression, finally drove me to question the very foundation of my worldview and to discover that God is the God of all grace.  God wants the fulfillment of my desires, not their repression.  But discovering a broken foundation is one thing; removing and replacing the foundation and rebuilding the structure is quite another (especially when your subconscious keeps sneaking in to replace the old blocks).  40 years I shouted at my desires, “Shut up!” as an act of submission to God’s will.  For 10 years I have been learning to receive the grace of God.  As you can see, I still have a long way to go.

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Posted January 2, 2011 by janathangrace in Uncategorized

2 responses to “You Better Like This!

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  1. In Neurosis & Human Growth (Karen Horney),refers to a similar phenomenon as, “The Tyranny of the Should”, whereby people use their imagination to create feelings and a reality in order to create a world in which they are their ideal selves (someone other than they really are, of course)…a world as it “should” be. I think the analogy of “a sweatshop, no! it’s a cruise!!” sums it up nicely.

  2. Thanks for your input.  I find Horney very insightful and helpful, though I don’t like being identified as a neurotic!  For more comforting and spiritual thoughts, I like Paul Tournier–he identifies with my emotional struggles instead of only diagnosing them!

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