August 22, 2014

The Homily

all-is-lost01Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4, NASB)

As this is my last homily on iMonk, I hope you will allow me some leeway. Today is the Epiphany of Jesus; that should be our topic. Next week is the Baptism of Jesus. I’m sure whoever writes the homily next Sunday will do a much better job relating the Gospel reading with baptism. But I wanted this topic to try to describe what is going on within me right now.

In baptism we have two actions: the going under, and the rising up; the burial, and the resurrection. Much of the focus on baptism is our rising up from the watery grave to become the new creation St. Paul tells us we are. We don’t want to spend much time on the burial under the water. I remember when I was baptized—on my birthday, July 17, in 1974. It was in a creek in Centerville, Ohio, behind the house of a family in my church. Even though it was summertime, the water was freezing. And it seemed like the preacher held me under forever. I began to wonder if I was ever going to come up again.

Burial. Finality. Death.

Let us not rush past this. There can be no resurrection without death. And with death comes burial. Baptism is that burial.

One of the greatest dangers for surfers, especially those who ride giant waves, is being buried by a wave beneath the surface of the water, pushed and twisted so that he doesn’t know which way is up. Deaths occur when the surfer begins swimming as quickly as possible toward what he thinks is “up,” but in reality is swimming “down.” Thus the phrase “he doesn’t know up from down” can be a death call.

And that is where I am right now. I don’t know up from down. I am once again in the burial stage of baptism. I have been pushed under the waters by the crushing wave of depression. Just as I thought I was about to break through to the surface, I find myself fighting to find the way up once again. I am about out of breath, but there is no breathing underwater. Or in the grave.

Is there always the promise of life after death? Or is it that we find life in death? Or perhaps it is life through death. Whatever the words used, right now I in the grip of the wave that is pushing me down down down.

Please don’t ask me what I think God is trying to teach me through all of this. I don’t think he is trying to teach me anything. I don’t know that he is interested in anything but my death. That is Jesus’ call to his followers, you know. He calls each of us to embrace death and accept our burial. And we are to do this again and again every day. How is it that others can do this so well where as it has led me to a place where I often pray to not see another sunrise? Is this what Jesus means by dying to self?

There’s a movie I have yet to see. It came and went on only one screen here in Tulsa without me getting to it. Perhaps I can see it once it hits RedBox. I have read about it, however. The movie is called All Is Lost, and it stars Robert Redford. Redford is alone on his boat, the Virginia Jean, in the middle of the Indian Ocean when he collides with a much larger cargo ship, which rips a hole Redford’s boat. Redford tries all he can to patch the hole, but finally realizes his boat is doomed, so he takes what he can and boards a life raft. He tries to find his way to shipping lanes before his scant supplies run out. On the eight day in his raft he writes a note, puts it in a jar and throws it overboard. The note reads, I’m sorry. I know that means little at this point, but I am. I tried. I think you would all agree that I tried. To be true, to be strong, to be kind, to love, to be right. But I wasn’t. All is lost.

That is the note I am writing today. I’ve tried. I’ve done all I know to do, but my raft is sinking. I want to keep going, but I can’t. I don’t know know how the movie ends. I don’t know know if Redford’s character lives or dies. I do know that my ultimate end is life eternal. But right now, I feel as if all is lost.  I have tried to keep going through the darkness of depression that I never saw coming. I’ve tried as publisher of this site to be true, to be strong, to be kind, to love, to be right. But I cannot do it any longer.

Thus, I am leaving this post. I have enjoyed every moment I have been able to spend with you. We have wrestled and struggled through some challenging topics over the years. We have laughed and cried together. We have rejoiced and we have questioned and we have resolved. I have already received messages from many of you saying you will be praying for me. I know you will, and that brings me more comfort than you can imagine. Thank you for everything. Take care of one another, ok?

I don’t want to end on a negative note. I confess here and now that I trust in the God of the living. That I believe he has not forgotten me. I trust that, by his grace, I will rise above the surface once again.

All is lost—that is the burial of baptism. What was once lost, however, will be found once again. There will come the rising out of the water. I don’t know when that will occur. I hope it is soon.

Let us pray.

Comments

  1. It sure isn’t easy. This life.

    At times it can be a hell on earth.

    I know this also, Jeff.

    Continue to hear His promises and receive his true body and blood. And know that He is for you, and with you, in the muck and tangledness of it all.

    And He will raise you anew…again and again and again. Until that last day when He will raise you for the last time.

    Never to suffer again.

    That’s my hope, anyway.

  2. Christiane says:

    Jeff . . . if you have noticed a deepening of your depression, call your doctor right away. Sounds like you need some additional help that you have not been receiving, and that is your doctor’s job to see that you are helped.

    • Very much seconded. This can be lifesaving! (Been there myself.)

      Jeff, do what you need to do for yourself. I will continue to pray, and am only too aware that there are no easy answers. If I could somehow ease your suffering, I would. Am sure everyone here feels the same.

  3. Dear Jeff,

    You are so very courageous to write so honestly of your feelings and experiences. Most people don’t have that kind of guts. I have always admired your writing here, and I’ve come to think of you and Chaplain Mike almost as internet friends of mine.

    I don’t mean to be presumptuous or intrusive, but it hurts my heart to see a friend in so much pain. I’m a lifelong depressive, and I know the full ugliness of this disease or condition. I don’t think depression is any kind of “God’s teaching message” for anyone. I honestly think it is simply some very nasty brain chemistry that some of us are prone to. I base this not only on my own experience, but (when it comes to religion and beliefs) on the simple observation that nowhere in the Gospels do we see Jesus saying to those who came to Him, “You know, what you folks need is to feel really really bad. Feel really lost and hopelss and confused. That’s how God wants you to feel, so He can make you feel better later.”

    Of course you’re aware there are ways to fight depression — very mundane ways such as anti-depressants, exercise, counselling, and (for me, anyway) talking to others in the 12-Step programs. (I’m in Al-Anon.) I hope with all my heart you are making full use of those. Your writing sounds a bit as if you think all this mental pain and turmoil is something you “ought” to be feeling, and that it’s inevitable. And that “it”, the feeling that “all is lost,” is the truth. I can only urge you to consider the possibility that it is not — that depression is an insidious mind-worm that warps and twists ones judgement so that, as you describe, there is no way to know which way is up. It’s totally natural to feel this way when one is in the middle of these terrible attacks, but your feelings right now are no guide whatever to the truth.

    I’ve probably babbled on too much, but I really wanted to reach out to another person who is suffering the dark nights of the soul as I have. I’m very sad you’re leaving IMonk, Jeff, but if it helps you in any way to leave, then by all means you must do it. May you go with God.

  4. Dear Jeff,
    You are being tossed about in a dark, deep, rolling sea right now…there are others out here with us.
    Hang on and keep treading! I’ll do the same.

  5. “And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well….” Julian of Norwich

    Even though it is impossible to believe now, even though you are undergoing death by water, even though words mean nothing to you at the moment and the wine dark seas have closed in over your head, even though…..even though…..

    The peace of the Lord be with you.

  6. Highwayman says:

    “What was once lost, however, will be found once again. There will come the rising out of the water. I don’t know when that will occur. I hope it is soon.”

    I hope it is soon too, Jeff – I’ve always really appreciated your writing on here. This homily makes me really sad, but I hear what you say.

    I go along with H. Lee’s comments above, but I realise extra words won’t help. Go in peace and may you know the love of God even in the depths.

  7. I am so sorry, Jeff, that this depression is not lifting from you. My heart goes out to you. I wish I had a magic wand to make it go away. I love all that you have done for us here at internetmonk and I love you. With this cold weather, now is not the time to visit Maine, but it would be great if you could come to Maine this summer and you and I and Ted could get together. I will email you my phone number.

    • I would love to see you both. Click the link to my blog and I’m not hard to find.

      Jeff, I have never been diagnosed with depression (because I’ve never sought out a diagnosis) but I know I suffer from it in varying ways, usually seasonally, or from financial pressures, or in the worst case(s) from relational problems. So I have a pretty good idea what you’re going through.

      But, what you have sounds dangerous, not merely debilitating as in my case. I agree with Christiane that you should seek medical help. If you have already seen a doctor, try a different one. This is too serious to think it’ll go away on it’s own.

      Your writing skills, thank God, remain intact and I wish I could encourage you to keep writing if only that would help ease the depression. But I’m sure you’ve thought of that.

      Let me say that your essays, the Saturday Ramblings and the homilies have been a big factor in keeping the black dog away from my house. I’ll continue to pray for you.

  8. My only point is that I don’t like Robert Redford or Alexander Ebert who was chosen for all the music on All is Lost.
    The final message of “Amen”, the track that ends the movie, is “I am never going to die….Amen, Amen, Amen.”
    Where have we ever heard that before? Ebert has a song about depression called “Truth”. He admits he has never lost his shadow(depression), His solution is when the darkness comes, let it inside, have faith in myself. He says take a bath in his blood, get to know him, his darkness is shining, your darkness is shining, trust in ourselves.
    I don’t think these people have one idea about dying to self. I think their entire existence is wrapped in preserving one’s finite self, which at heart excludes the very reason for baptism. Redford in character in the movie says that he thinks I agree that he tried to love. Ebert says in his song on depression that he’s only loving, only trying to love. I really believe they have an entire different idea about Truth and Love than it is in reality. Not one hint about Truth and Love other than their ideas and feelings. I don’t doubt for an instant that Redford and Ebert, in their personal lives, could be more like the girl in Jeff Dunn’s workplace, who shows caring and concern, rather than many in a church Jeff may have attended, that say they hear, but no concern in action. Tragic, really.

  9. “Jesus wept.”

    He cares for you and what you’re going through, Jeff. And so do many of us who’ve gotten to know you through your efforts at Internet Monk. Divine blessings and peace to you!

  10. I looked and I saw a great abyss
    and down inside the demons hiss
    as I stood teetering about to fall
    I thought I heard the faintest call
    then drew my eyes up to the sound
    and fog was closing all around
    a cloak of grey and earthly fog
    I seemed to be mired in a great vast bog
    my ears were straining for the voice
    the sound of many waters
    as it did course its way through me
    now falling down on bended knee
    I scarce could raise my soul to thee
    and barely looking up I find
    an arm outstretched
    His hand in mine…selah

    A gift for you brother Jeff.

    From another ready writer,
    Sonya

  11. Here is my prayer for you

    The God of Shalom brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Yeshua, by the blood of the eternal covenant. May God equip you with every good thing you need to do his will; and may he do in us whatever pleases him, through Yeshua the Messiah.
    To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen HEBREWS 13:20-21

  12. Steve Porter says:

    May the Lord bless you and keep you;
    May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
    May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

    Thank you for your writings over the years. I have been much encouraged by them, my friend.

  13. Strength, encouragement, guidance, wisdom, knowledge, peace, fortitude, and comfort all sent your way, Jeff. Blessing surround you and lift you high, light in the darkness. Thank you for all you have done.

  14. Even though I’ve never commented here before, I wanted to chime in and let you know I’m praying for you.

    I experienced a severe depression some years ago. Please see a doctor if you have not already. Medication can make a big difference (it is not a cure all and in my case I had to try several different meds until my doctors and I found what worked best for me). Just don’t wait.

    I know how terrible and dark depression can feel. I had a paralyzing fear that nothing would work to help me and I would never feel like my usual self again. That I wouldn’t be able to function and raise my children. Just know that I’ve been there, and that I was able to become healthy again. I still struggle with mild depression, but thank God, it has been manageable.

    Don’t try to look too far ahead right now, do what you need to do next to take care of yourself. Be gentle with yourself. I pray that God will give any doctors or those helping you with wisdom and discernment. I also pray that your family and close friends will surround you will with love and support. I pray that God will help you not to feel totally alone, because you aren’t (even though it may feel like that at times).

    May you feel God’s loving presence,
    Jill

  15. I don’t know much about depression, but I do know you’ll be missed. May I suggest a guest appearance now and again, perhaps for the Sunday homily? Also, I for one would like to hear how your journey with the Catholic Church progresses.

  16. I guess what I’m saying, we love what you do. If you love what you do, too, don’t close the door completely; however, your doctor’s advice is ultimately what matters.

  17. Bless your heart Jeff – that is a terrible & familiar feeling. I wish I could build you a nest to hide in until you feel better. My dogs will get in & cuddle you until you can face getting out again.
    I second everyone here – if you have had a worsening of your symptoms go back to your Doctor – or get someone to take you if you can’t. Do what you need to do to survive.

  18. Jeff: how would you know that what you are going through has more to do with baptism than with being in a deep depression ?? I,m asking this as someone who has known depression for over fifty yrs myself. I don,t get the baptism angle here. I certainly do get not knowing up from down….all of 2013 was that for me..

  19. “But finding the brokenness in the pain is how we train our spirit to thrive only on the nearness of Christ, then riches or poverty no longer matter. It isn’t that suffering is preferable to ease but that the nearness of Christ makes short shrift of both.” – Joe Spann

    God’s Peace to you

  20. I’ll be 82 this month and Iave had an anxiety disorder all my life only I didn’t know it until my sister died and my daughter insisted I talk to a professional. pills didn’t help, AFAIK, but looking back and being honest has made me feel better, relationships better, less fear. You will get better, I am sure. Talking so openly here is a big step.

  21. Hi, Jeff. You are in my prayers. I’m 55 years old and have experienced depression on and off since I was 12 years old. There were episodes that lasted years. Medication, exercise and counseling have helped me tremendously over the last 7 years. There are difficult days, but nothing as severe or long lasting as in the past.

  22. Heather Erickson says:

    Hi Jeff, You will be missed, but our prayers go with you. I have really appreciated your insightful writing. I pray that you will win this battle. God bless you!

  23. Jeff-

    I apologize I have not posted as much here at I-Monk. I really want to thank you for all you have done. You have no idea how much you and Chaplin Mike have meant to me. I found this place when I was in a lot of pain. I was burned. fried and unsure of who I was. All I knew was who I wasn’t and what I didn’t want to be. I wanted to get as far away from fundagelicalism as possible.

    This blog has been a raft. And there were days that were so dark. Dark indeed. I’m not going to say things are easy. They are not. I’m still walking through hell having experienced a horrific betrayal. There is a reason why my story hasn’t been posted at TWW . CM knows what happened and I am still pressing through it. But know this…
    each and everyone here loves you. If possible I’d head out to OK buy you a beer or coffee and we’d hug and weep for all the hard things that has come by us in life. My suffering is not even over…not nearly close. I have to age first, deal with aging parents which is coming, family issues, and more suffering in regards to health. I’m not trying to be gloom and doom especially after how I was able to scratch together some kind of faith system from rubble.

    I want you to know that you are loved. And that I care about you and CM very deeply. If you ever come out to the Washington, D.C. area feel free to look me up. Dinner is on me. I think about your son a lot and I hope he is doing okay. You have my email…feel free to correspond with me if you would like to.

    But I would be happy to help carry you through your season of pain, as you an CM helped carry me through my season of pain. Hold on please….

    Love

    Eagle

  24. Jeff, you may be under the water, but always remember that without death, there is no context for resurrection. You have been an important part of my daily routine for several years now, either through your writing or comments, and I’ll extend a hearty “thank you” for being an important part of my life. I’m not going to eulogize Jeff Dunn just yet, though. I don’t believe that God is finished with you.

    Peace of the Lord be with you and your house…

    • I second those thoughts. Jeff, your writing has impacted many more than you will ever know. I sincerely hope that you are one day soon able to return to it, and sooner than you expect.

    • I struggle with the mixing of death metaphors within a topic on depression. We don’t die in baptism, nor is it a death experience; rather, as Paul stated in Ephesians 2:1, we were dead prior to entering the waters of baptism with Christ; we are raised to a new life, but one still plagued by trials and pain. Again, I know nothing about clinical, physiological depression, but it is not death. Death is not the means to resurrection; rather, the resurrection is the greatest assault against death, until Christs finally casts death itself into the lake of fire. Death is never a friend; it is always the great intruder. How light and life conquers darkness, even the darkness of depression, I don’t know. I do think it requires a fight against it, to be engaged by not just the victim but the entire church body joining in solidarity with the victim in the fight and the suffering. I wish the iMonk community could be part of your fight, but apparently only in prayer. I hope you do have a community who will engage in this fight with you.

      “And now you’re trembling on a rocky ledge
      staring down into a heartless sea
      can’t face life on a razor’s edge
      nothing’s what you thought it would be

      “All of us get lost in the darkness
      Dreamers learn to steer by the stars
      All of us do time in the gutter
      Dreamers turn to look at the cars
      turn around and turn around and turn around
      Turn around and walk the razor’s edge
      Don’t turn your back
      And slam the door on me”
      - Neal Peart, from “The Pass” by Rush

  25. Jeff, as someone who’s struggled with depression my entire adult life, I just want to say thank you for writing honestly about it. It sure doesn’t seem fair sometimes that other people get to live their lives free from this sort of thing, and (at least to me) it isn’t terribly welcome when “normals” try to give advice about it.

    All I can say is that I hope God ends up judging us by the hand we’ve been dealt. On a level playing field, I’m toast.

    Just, thanks. I’m glad I’m not the only one, and please know that you aren’t alone either.

  26. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

  27. But, none of us know. None of us really know Jeff, what “you” are going through. May God keep you in HIs grace, “when sorrows like sea billows roll”.

  28. Jeff, praying for you this day.

    Stumbled upon this earlier this morning.

    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/scandalous-grace-of-god

  29. I am praying for you. God Bless!