the perfect christian life and anti-depressants
(this article originally appeared in catapult magazine. the topic has been on my mind, so i thought i’d bring her back out and put a new dress on her.)
A close friend knocked on our door a few weeks after our daughter was born.
He told us he’d waited these six weeks before coming by, what with the baby being so new and all, but now the time had come. He wanted to let us know that our child was in need of healing. This Down syndrome she possessed was in fact possession, and we could start tonight, we could pray it away.
This was not God’s intention for her. We could call the devil by his name. He asked us to imagine her healed and walking across the stage receiving her high school diploma eighteen years from now. He said we’d sit in the bleachers and we’d cry and say, “God did that!”
I held my baby, not yet two months old, in her blankets.
Life’s surprises had left me numb and now this? Now him in our living room — our brother, our trusted friend — delivering such a word from God?
I’d hoped he would want to hold her, praise her newness, but he hardly looked at her except to see what God wanted to fix.
What I held in my arms now was little more than a thermostat of my faith.
The Christian life has a lot of those: ways that determine how much faith we have, how much we deny or obey God based on what we will or won’t do. What we do or don’t believe about things other than Jesus Christ.
I’ve taken anti-depressants for years now — another one of those things.
Taking medication for depression can be a Christian no-no.
I’ve internalized that prevalent thought and every night, when it comes time to swallow down another tiny orange pill, I sometimes think that I’m doing something wrong. I believe that I’m less than the one who doesn’t need to do this, less than the super-Christian I used to be. I wonder if I’ve lost my creative edge. I believe that I tell the truth at a slant now. Everything that I have achieved is, in part, not valid because I’ve done it while managing depression with a prescription pharmaceutical.
Is that true?
These two stories share a similar lie that boils down to this: there is a better Christian way of being and it can be achieved in this life. Extra behavioral choices added to believing that I’m saved by grace.
Is that true?
It is true that some life situations are better than others — managing depression through prayer versus alcoholism, perhaps? Or having no mental disabilities versus having a cognitive delay? However, none of these situations is any further away from or closer to God.
We’re all a million miles off the mark and will continue to be so.
If our daughter were healed of Down syndrome, she’d still be far from realized.
If I stop taking medication and don a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, I’d be no closer to or further from Jesus than I am today.
I still having trouble believing it is so, but it is.
Grace contends for its way and God decides some people will have Down syndrome.
He also loves people who struggle with depression.
Revolutionary, I know.
Grace speaks this over and over: it’s not about us.
It’s about God and what He does or doesn’t do.
Maybe one day, we’ll all get it right — perfect people with a perfect score.
Oh, for that glorious, extremely boring, day! I need to pray that I don’t hope for such a day.
But until then I’ll walk down the street having taken my anti-depressant, holding the hand of my daughter who has Down syndrome and I will say that I am loved and, by the grace of God, I’m still welcome.
photo credit: amykimballphotography