Continuing my hymn-oriented gospel studying….I was reading through How Firm a Foundationyesterday and about some of the history behind it. The song is structured so that the first verse sets up the foundation on which we should build (God’s word) and then the subsequent verses all come from various promises in the bible (third verse – Isaiah 41:10, seventh verse – Hebrews 13:5, etc.). But the one that I spent the most time on was verse four*:
The perspective I am gaining on the past, however, is allowing me to appreciate the value of problems that have passed. I was talking with my aunt a few days ago and we both mentioned some of the darkest periods of our lives and how, despite the utter misery we felt, neither of us would go back and change what happened. It is a little bit crazy not to want to avoid life-derailing despair, but for my part I can’t seem to be okay with losing everything I felt and learned.
I wouldn’t consider my experience with Depression sacred or spiritual in any sense as my attempts to find a religious lifeline resulted in anger, frustration, and a feelings of being forgotten or unworthy or even valueless. I can’t really identify what pieces of the experience allowed me to arrive where I am now, but because of it I believe the promise of the fourth verse. I’m grateful for the sanctification I’ve received from my deepest distress.
*Verse four is added as one of those supplemental verses at the bottom of hymns that we never actually sing, despite the fact that most hymns include four verses as the “regulars”, and it’s a shame. This is one of the many changes I would like to propose for the next edition of the hymn book.
Seven years ago, after dealing with various degrees of Depression for about a year, I was laying on my bed unable to move and completely overwhelmed with hopelessness. I was experiencing the awful truth of the adage ‘Hope deferred maketh the heart sick‘ and wrote the following:
I feel hollow. All I can feel is my heart beating and I just want it to stop.
Today, despite dreading the wetness and jumpsuits and the wetness of the jumpsuits, I went to the temple for the first time in eight years. My endowed friend graciously agreed to join me at 6:30am on a Tuesday, which was important as I am not at my best in the morning and I don’t love the fact that I am twice as old as many of the others who have limited-use recommends (also known as the 12 year-old recommend). My best intentions would not have been enough to get me there without knowing a friend was making that effort for me. The baptistery was almost empty, but full of temple workers, so we moved through the baptisms and confirmations quickly without much time to sit and think. Thankfully, after we were done we were able to sit in the chapel for a few minutes where I experienced a familiar sensation.
All I could feel was my heart beating. But in this case it wasn’t a hollow feeling, and I wasn’t wishing for relief. My heart felt full, a cliche but the only accurate description I can come up with.
Yesterday I was focused on guilt as the concealed wound which can be healed, but I wasn’t necessarily thinking of the service provided by the Good Samaritan in verse five as the healing agent. After watching this video and hearing an average-joe-type man describe the healing power of service I thought of other types of concealed wounds which need healing. Depression, for example, is one that certainly can be/often is concealed, and deeply painful. There were very few things that helped me feel less depressed with any kind of consistency, but helping other people was one of those things.
As another man in the video said, triage of the soul involves looking outward, which absolutely has been true for me. It was not terribly intuitive and so I didn’t take advantage of this method to provide respite from Depression as much I could have; it’s hard to feel like you have a lot to offer other people when you can barely function yourself. But there’s always something that can be done.
It was also great to see a video focused on men doing service and experiencing a change of heart in a subtle way. Most of these scenarios of service that I’ve seen are focused on women, and I like that this represents men who also care about sacrificing time, helping their neighbors, etc. And as for the change of heart, it’s nice to see men who aren’t turning from drug addicts into faithful members…just regular guys who have impactful spiritual experiences which motivate them to change.
The quote from Elder Christofferson at the end was perfect, “We become more substantive as we serve others, indeed it’s easier to find ourselves because there’s so much more of us to find.”