DEUTERONOMY 30, COLOSSIANS 1, AND LUKE 10
I’ve decided that I don’t need these theological reflections to be brilliant.
When I uploaded one the other day, I was doused with anxiety. Not because I am hesitant to let other people know my thoughts, but because I set a standard for myself that is not unlike how I view school work. Even now, as I type out this paragraph, I had to substitute the word “submitted” for “uploaded”. I have involuntarily meshed WordPress into Blackboard. In doing so, I have brought to the surface my memories as a student in higher education. Writing that blog post, during the process and then for the days following, had reminded me of how my mental illnesses had poisoned my college/grad school experience. Theological reflection is something that I have a God-given passion for, but my depression and anxiety constantly rob me of joy. When you have generalized anxiety and major depressive disorder, the absence of joy is inevitably replaced with an incapacitating sense of dread. My pain is that the work, which should bring me joy, fills me with suffering. I overthink, but not about the task at hand, but rather, with thoughts that are abusive. I freeze. I become physically ill. I am no longer able to do the work to the standards that I have set for myself. I receive feedback that I am not pleased with. This feedback fuels the cycle of suffering and self-doubt.
I had created my previous post with my preaching class in mind. As I wrote out my thoughts, I did so as if I was preparing to deliver my reflection as a homily. Not to say that I am not a talented preacher, but that is not the point of this exercise. These posts are for my own benefit. They are not to score marks with a computerized audience. They are not to be compared with other publications. They are not to be a ten-page long exegetical paper. Why? Because my poisoned mind will attempt to convince me that I am not worthy to be writing on the subject. My poisoned mind will attempt to convince me that nothing I could say would be original or worth the time and effort that is dedicated to uploading such a post. My poisoned mind will convince me to not bother with the action. As consequence, my heart will be saddened by the lost opportunity. These lost opportunities devastate me. And it is becoming increasingly more difficult to admit aloud that I am upset over the fact that my mental illnesses prevent me from accomplishing anything that I can be proud of.
I meant to do these posts every day. However, if I don’t change my attitude, this will not be the case. My new method is to be speak only to one point/question/concern that had come to mind when reflecting on the texts. I believe it would make most sense to attempt to do so through the lens of faith and mental health – a.k.a. the concept behind this website.
I have many unfinished thoughts about the epistle to the Colossians. Particularly, the verse that reads “he is the beginning, the firstborn of the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent.” It is a beautiful line that I believe speaks to the topic of the manuscript that I have set aside. As someone who had once wanted to physically die, but instead had been brought to new life through reception of the Holy Spirit in the saving waters of Baptism (for which Jesus had willingly died on His Cross to make possible!!!), this is a verse that reaffirms my faith in Christ.
However, the Lectionary was intentionally put together by minds that are wiser than my own.
I don’t find this line to be overtly connected to the Old Testament and the New Testament passages. Therefore, I had decided to continue to look at the Scripture longer; to guess as to why these particular texts were grouped together.
I’ve heard the story of the Good Samaritan since childhood. I was introduced to the passage as an elementary school student, years before I had even received the Sacraments. It was always presented in a similar manner: Jesus shares this fictional story as a means to demonstrate how vital mercy is. What I managed to gather, as a child in Vacation Bible School, was that salvation for the human soul is dependent on neighborly compassion and engagement. (Of course, I hadn’t then reached spiritual maturity. I was clueless as to what souls were, nonetheless what role God plays in the preservation of them.) As I got older, I was able to understand that Jesus of Nazareth – as the fulfillment of the Law, as the sinless Son of Man – had been sent by the Father to reconcile the world back to Himself. Jesus was incapable, and unwilling, to steer his adversaries into eternal damnation. Faith in the Lord, and devotion to the Law, had been accessible to all those who had listened to the instruction of the Word.
This realization has brought me much peace.
And the best part about Scripture? No matter how many times you read the text, there is always something valuable that is screaming for acknowledgment.
Today, I acknowledged how glad I am to see myself in the face of the scholar who had prompted The Good Samaritan parable. It might sound silly, as the scholar demonstrated qualities that are not usually considered to be admirable, but I love recognizing his beautiful humanity. I love knowing that Jesus extended love to this man. And I love that scholarship, being an expert in one’s field, is not synonymous with perfectionism. The scholar gives me much hope. The existence of the scholar helps to calm my anxiety and restore my self-worth. The scholar has posed the question, “who is my neighbor?” [Luke 10:29] He has done this on behalf of us all. He secured the answer, and we all benefit from this work.
I am so grateful.