I declare, the weather here in Virginia is bi-polar. One day it’s raining, the next day the sun is shining. One day it’s cold, the next day it’s hot. One day we get five inches of snow, and a week later the temperatures are in the 80s.
Of course, I’m never that way. I’m always even-keeled. Never up and down. Never hot then cold.
I wish it were true. Caught up in the crossfire of circumstances, I sometimes become as unpredictable as the weather in southern Virginia.
I suffer from a crippling disease: being a human. I have known despair – a life that Thomas Hobbes once referred to as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” I have also known extreme elation. Most days I’m striving to find a balance between the two extremes.
Life is a psychic infirmity brought on by the reality of the struggle between darkness and light, flesh and Spirit. So I’m always grateful when I read how Jesus had compassion on people experiencing this kind of distress.
“But Dave,” you say. “How can you feel that way? You’re a seminary professor, an author of books on Christianity, a missionary to the four corners of the world!” You don’t know me very well, friend. The phrase “dark night of the soul” was coined by St. John of the Cross, one of the church’s greatest theologians. I imagine that I struggle where many of you struggle – being preoccupied with the things I’ve done (or failed to do) in the past. How much better of a husband I could have been! How much better of a father I could have been! How much better of a Christian I could have been! So I run the film backwards, and misery ensues.
Then I look into the face of the One who took the brunt of Martha’s mocking words at the tomb of Lazarus: “Well, I see you finally made it. Don’t you think it’s a bit late to do anything about it now?” The Rabbi is not defensive. His face mirrors her own grief. The past is tragic, He seems to say. But there’s hope. “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Through all the vicissitudes of my life I have discovered that the only answer to despair is hope. Hope made David get dressed and begin to act like a king again after his son died. Hope made Simon Peter a rock after he had denied his Lord. Life is impossible without hope.
Jesus frustrates me. He will frustrate anybody who tries to live in the past. “It is finished,” He says. “It’s all under the blood.”
Just the words a bi-polar Christian needs to hear from time to time.
March 22, 2009
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.