See Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Proper 5 (year B), June 10, 2012
“the sin against the Holy Spirit”
Why is dear Thomas a Kempis not an official saint? While being considered for canonization, his body was exhumed, and it was discovered that he had been buried alive. Evidence of splinters in his fingernails from scratching the inside of the coffin lid raised doubts about his sanctity: he might have despaired in death.
Some despair you can’t help. Like realizing you’ve been buried alive. Or, very similarly, suffering from depression.
What people who have not suffered clinical depression cannot understand (and it is understandable that they can’t understand) is that when your brain is forcing you to kill yourself, it takes every bit of physical strength to resist with every muscle engaged in the exhausting fight. It takes every last spark of intellect to to argue with a subtle monster cleverer than you. It takes every long, drawn out moment of time to scour down to the dregs of memory to recall that there might be a reason not to do it.
The pain is unbearable. Literally.
When a person breaks a leg on a ski slope and you can see the bone protruding from the skin, you can empathize and say feebly, “That must hurt.” But when the pain is inside the mind, you can’t empathize at all. All those hours on the couch are Olympic- like training to stay alive. Because the will to die is stronger than the will to live. Willing yourself to live takes everything you have.
When a parent or child or loved one does commit suicide, people often say, “That was such a selfish thing to do!” But what the ones left behind grieving do not understand, is that you were separated by death long before the actual act. The suicide is already deep in a well, having screamed herself sick for help, left abandoned, and the well cover has been shoved over the hole. The family is so far away, and unreal and in another world. You are already dead. Buried alive.
This sin against the Holy Spirit is the scariest thing in the Bible. Especially for us depressives. A part of the brain freezes, seizes up, like a stroke or brain injury or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, but the brain freeze is in the part that engages with life and generates hope. And it looks just like despair. And sometimes it is despair.
The sin against the Holy Spirit is willful despair.
Sometimes I get into moods of darkness thinking about how I’ve wasted, ruined, and frittered my life away. I confront myself with my mistakes, recklessness, and recurring sins. I fall easily into despair. But I know I’m sinning against the Holy Spirit. Because I’ve observed that no matter how I’ve wasted, ruined, and frittered away my time and how my mistakes, reckless behavior, and sins wrecked my hopes, the Holy Spirit has always made a nice shepherd’s pie out of my mince and scraps. Every wrong turn yielded up a creative path toward something good in spite of myself. When I forget the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, or doubt that the Spirit can get me out of my latest scrape, I’m sinning willfully.
Pray for men, women, teens, and children who, not by their own choice, live in the hell of a disordered, dark, malevolent brain. If you want to know about the sin against the Holy Spirit, ask a depressive what it is like to live without hope. Then imagine what a sin it is to choose, on purpose, to live without light.
On the other hand, this is today’s post (Saturday, June 8th) on Gratefulness.org:
The coin that pays for ecstasy
is always stamped despair.
One cannot love empathically
until one wanders there.
Dictated right before she died of ALS