I am, and have been for some time, incredibly content.
Holy crap, you guys!*
For so much of my life contentment, happiness, joy, peace – whatever – were anomalies, rare moments of lightness in the midst of a heavy atmosphere of depression and doubt. My bedrock emotion during that time was anxiety; there was always something that would cause my heart to seize up whenever it crossed my mind.
I was anxious that someone would find out I was gay. I was anxious that my friends woud leave me. I was anxious that, even if they didn’t leave me, they would secretly resent me. I was anxious that God would abandon me, that he might not really love me, or that his love would always have a bitter aftertaste. I was anxious about the future, wondering if all the little problems of the past that were nibbling at me in the present would consume me before I made it to shore, which is to say I was anxious that my convictions wouldn’t hold, that my faith would dissolve around the edges, and that the overwhelming desire just to be held and loved would flay my bleeding resolve.
Which is why this is so crazy!
Every day, literally every day, I experience frequent moments of exhilarating joy, fiery instants of wonder in which the beauty of life and the excitement of following God are practically luminous. I’m not lonely. I’m not aching. I’m not anxious. I’m alive in the most abundant of ways.
I mean, gosh, I am doing everything in my meager power to restrict my use of exclamation points and question marks but it is very much not easy right now so I am compensating with italics for emphasis.
All this to say, a lot has changed over the year and I am in awe of it all.
But I need to be careful. I don’t want to make the same mistakes as before. When I was in the midst of my whatever-it-was sadness, I thought it would last forever. The anxiety felt so total, so enduring, that I couldn’t imagine life any other way. I was always going to be painfully different, always going to be afraid everyone would leave me, always going to follow God with a sinful flinch just beneath my obedient skin.
It could be so easy to feel the same about my current contentment: to think that I will always be filled with such excitement, always compelled by such passion, always so sure of God’s goodness and overwhelming beauty.
But I won’t. I know I won’t.
Some day, tomorrow or years from now, something will fracture, and the acid haze will return. I don’t doubt it.
I’m not feeling all great and stuff simply because I’ve done something super-right and God is rewarding me with steroidal warm-fuzzies. I don’t think the absence of pain is the direct result of faithfulness to God just as I don’t think the presence of pain is the direct result of unfaithfulness. Such useless theology has done too much damage. The whole witness of scripture speaks to the reality that sometimes the most faithful people sweat blood and sometimes the most debauched possess seemingly untouchable felicity.
But I do think our experiences of pain, the absence of pain, and all the variations in-between, are blessed opportunities to proclaim the goodness and nearness of God.
So instead of constantly wondering, “What am I doing differently that is making my life this fantastic and how can I keep doing whatever it is so that my life remains this fantastic?” I am trying to ask myself daily, “Am I following God with all my heart, soul, and strength and loving those around me as Christ would?”
The former question betrays a hope that is dependent on the balance of volatile chemicals in my brain, while the latter declares a hope that is dependent on the faithfulness of God.
Because let’s face it, there will likely come a time when my dopamine levels randomly drop again. There will come a time when following God will require me to sacrifice “happiness” of one form or another, when serving others will demand more of me than I would like to give, and I’m a little worried that I’ll become so addicted to this easy joy that when that moment comes I’ll just stand there, clutching my pet comfort and refusing to move forward with the confidence of one who knows that my Savior has already gone before me and will be with me through it all. And not just with me, but using me in ways greater than my own capacity or understanding.
I learned in depression that my God promises neither normalcy nor stability, but love and redemption, and that is too valuable a lesson to lose sight of just because I’ve finally caught a glimpse of that mythic species of peace that I sought through all those aching years.
And I’ve found that in both times of crippling doubt and times of quickening assurance this peace has remained, as I guess it always will, beyond my understanding. But I think now, for the first time in my short life, I believe that to be a very, very good thing.
* But for serious, holy crap, you guys!