Wednesday, December 7

My Mother's Faith: Strength Out of Depression

Most of my readers already know that my mother went to be with the Lord last Friday at 8:30 AM. She was 90 and her health had been failing. Yesterday was the funeral. My brother Carl videoed everything per my Dad's request since he is hard of hearing and would miss so much of the service. Two grandsons gave their take on Mom's affect on them. My sisters (Kathi & Christine) each gave reminiscences of our mother that were both humorous and lovingly indicative of the kind of mother she was.  People seem to enjoy those memories even though they do not apply but to the family. They really did do a good job. I had the privilege of speaking about Mom's faith. Below is what I said. Each of us felt compelled to write everything out, for composure's sake as well as trying to keep to the time-frame allotted. I believe that while the following pertains to my mother, the truths about which I speak apply well beyond her to all, especially to those who suffer from depression like my Mom.

A Meditation on Our Mother's Faith 
 Maria Bowers Nelson
February 21, 1921-December 2, 2011

It is true that Mom could be quite humorous. She also appreciated the arts: classical music and even opera. I remember as a 5-year old sitting in a wing chair listening to a record of Beethoven's Fifth and Haydn's 104th and being enamored. I don't remember being as excited about opera though I have listened to them as well because of her influence. But, it is equally true that Mom had to deal with depression. And this made her hold her faith more firmly than someone who does not feel this trial. One thing you cannot say about her is that she was a cookie-cutter woman. But neither was she a cookie-cutter Christian. Mom could be somewhat private about her spirituality. But it was there. It came out in different ways. I have found that people who live out their Christianity through the heaviness of depression tend to cast off superficiality and exhibit a rather no-nonsense faith. There isn’t room for pious platitudes. It’s useless if it doesn’t meet me in my pain. One of the verses that Mom came to love years ago and that is emblazoned on my memory is this one from Joel 2:25:

I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten, . . .”

If famine and locust swarms represented the times of drought and depression, then to Mom this verse was a promise of restoration. She would say, “Oh, I LOVE that verse!" And then she would repeat it like someone doing a reading of a poem before an adoring audience. She saw the value of such healing words. And who loves healing more than those who experience pain so very deeply? In the face of such a promise, crying would be exchanged for laughter; nightmares give way to visions of joy, and laments would be replaced by praise to God. A couple of days ago, I had a chance to read what she had written in her Bible from years ago. She recorded this from Pastor Seume on March 24, 1963, “The mystery above must be lived out in the misery below. The misery below is where most people are living.” And therein lies the battle. But you fight it. And you fight it by God’s unceasing grace.

In the spirit of others who suffered deep depressions like the hymn-writer, William Cowper and the beloved prince of preachers, C. H. Spurgeon, Mom grabbed for comfort wherever she could find it. Is it any wonder that one of her favorite hymns (and mine), which Phyllis heard her affirm, is “Oh, Love That Will Not Let Me Go”? Perhaps without knowing it, Momma identified with this hymn because she identified with its author, George Matheson. Engaged to be married, Matheson knew he was growing blind. Upon relaying this fact to his fiancé, she called off the marriage saying that she did not believe she could marry a blind man. In spite of this heartbreak, he found great help in his sister as blindness overtook him. Some time later, however, his sister fell in love and was to be married. Now he would lose her too. On the afternoon of the day she was to be married in the evening, and while alone in a room, he writes: 
Some­thing hap­pened to me, which was known only to my­self, and which caused me the most se­vere men­tal suf­fer­ing. The hymn was the fruit of that suf­fer­ing. It was the quick­est bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the im­press­ion of hav­ing it dic­tat­ed to me by some in­ward voice ra­ther than of work­ing it out my­self. I am quite sure that the whole work was com­plet­ed in five min­utes, and equal­ly sure that it ne­ver re­ceived at my hands any re­touch­ing or cor­rect­ion.
I believe the last two stanzas bespeak Mom’s faith and hopefully ours as well!
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
I don’t think Mom would’ve understood that attitude so popular these days, that God never meant us to suffer or to have to endure trials, or even depression. She, like all of us did not particularly relish such depression, but I suspect neither she nor we could be what we are in Christ without those times. But that is not the end of the matter. Mom loved to read of consolation in Scripture or to hear it in a hymn. It's verses like these from Paul that help us understand why:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.  –2 Corinthians 4:7-9
Mom used to say to us children, “You can’t always have what you want.” Simple advice, but profound. In the end, however, we who love Christ will get far more than we could ever want. The eternal joy of heaven vastly outweighs all the suffering any of us faces. One thing is certain, no one knows that so well as Mom, who has now had restored to her all the years the locusts had eaten.

No comments: