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HE CARETH FOR YOU - a testimony

"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters." (Psalm 23:2)

Anatomy of Melancholy

For many years I have tromped the hills in spring, delighting in God’s creative handiwork in the wildflowers and the seasons.  Early spring calls me in search of that narrow window of green growth before the golden for which our state is named insists on having its way. Green is my favorite of God’s inventions.  Green nourishes, green sheds peace, green exults.

Many years ago I seem to have planted a cottage in the crook of the arm of the most maternal of these hills, in a glen here or maybe there, dewy as a vernal shoot, where my hopes of a better life took nest.  Spring after spring a seductive nostalgia practiced its gentle persuasion on me, tugging at me with a dull longing for the life I would have lived in that cottage, for the sweetness of a parallel existence that was never lived, just out of my reach and irrevocably distant. With the cottage I could walk away from the difficulties of married life and the daily tug of war between motherhood and the artistic urge, and dwell momentarily in peace and imaginary fulfillment.

The cottage was not real, and pointed to a future that would never occur, infused with melancholy that grew year after year as an addiction grows.  It belittled the real me, and diminished my real life.  My real house was mundane, my real day to day was a litter of dreary tasks incapable of aspiring to the promise of the dream. The artist in me was habitually frustrated. And all the while the cottage could never bridge the gap to reality. The promised fulfillment took a step back and away from me every time I stepped forward to meet it. Even all the beautiful music, poetry and visual art I created were without value in light of what could have been. If this was the destination of my hopes then I was indeed bereft of hope. 

You'd think I would have known better.  I have lived in a real home long enough to know that the sweeping will have to be done, the roof will develop a leak, and mice will leave their droppings among the spoons as they scamper after crumbs in the silverware drawer.  Yet the cottage of the green hills was untroubled by forces of decay, like a cartoon in vinyl paints without much detail in the corners where the dust ought to have gathered.

There is one who is the author of melancholy, though I don’t care to name him.  His objective is always to take our eyes off the Author of life and the Giver of gifts, so that we dwell in what we have not, instead of gratefully rejoicing in what we have.  This lesser author seeks to steal joy and replace it with a counterfeit that has a sick sweetness, and prevents real joy from achieving full flower.  He lulls one into a habit of desiring beyond what one has, and then twists the desire to extract from it the bitter juice of disappointment that serves to poison all that is lovely.  He prefers to remain behind a veil so that he won’t be found out, and one could spend a lifetme unaware of his subtle stylings. 



“The end thereof are the ways of death.”  The beginning thereof was also death.  When I dissect the melancholy I find a cluster of feelings singing in harmony on a theme: a bud that never blossomed, a life that was never lived, a potential unrealized, and oh the grief of that precious possibility snatched away!  Just the sight of a berry on the vine after berry season was over, still hanging there without ever having fully ripened, would reduce me to tears.

What husband can please the wife who suffers under such a spell?  What occupation can bring satisfaction to one who resents being torn from the paths of her fruitless meanderings?  What creative endeavor brings pleasure when all begins to seem like the shadow life, while the cottage becomes the real life drifting away without the one who was supposed to people it with laughter and flowers?

I have thought for years that it was my own potential that I was grieving.  It is now clear to me that all these years of melancholy were the closest I could come to grieving the life of a child that I snuffed out many years ago through abortion.  I made a perfect home for her in the hills and invented a life for her there, careful to soften the focus so that details remained distant and vague.   I took the melancholy of springtime and with the meticulousness of a perfect mother I carried it with me throughout the year, taking on its disappointments as though I were the one who never got to live. I chose un-fulfillment over fulfillment, just to keep paying the penalty that such an act required.

And so it might have gone on: the appointment missed, the years sweeping by, me growing old and spending my days in bitterness - except that I had an encounter that changed everything. This year I have come again for green. I am standing on a warm firm rock, secure in my footing as I look out over the familiar setting where there might once have been a cottage. Today I choose not to accept the invitation to melancholy.  My loyalties have shifted.  I am no longer tempted to wilt the green of these hills with swooning.  I have allowed roots to dig deep into a sounder hope than the one that teases from the hills, which while equally unseen, is real rather than fanciful, and offered by limitless God rather than by my limited mind. I encountered a loving Power that could process the sin I committed when I took my child's life as I could never process it on my own. He offered an atonement for me and seeks to remove my shame, if I will only give it to Him.

Because I encountered Jesus and accepted His invitation to live in Him and let Him live in me, I come today in possession of a heavenly promise that will be realized.  My spirit eyes enable me to see this and to stand on it as a certainty.  What need have I for the junk food of nostalgic imagination when I can access the total nourishment of an encounter between One who is, though not seen, and one who believes, bridged by faith?  I have already entered the promised rest, which affords me a new view of the cottage.  I was offered and accepted forgiveness from Jesus, and I now seek to live in truth rather than fiction. The cottage now looks like a deception rather than a comfort, and I sever all ties with the one who would have kept me trapped in my vain imaginings and the permanent unfulfillment of buried shame. 

Mother, child

In my real house is a husband who makes me deeply happy.  Jesus showed him to me one day and said, “This man’s patient, steadfast love for you over all your years of melancholy is a picture of how I love you.”  I am so grateful.  I am born again of the spirit, and dwell in God-given rest.  In the exultation of the green this spring I see a picture of the incorruptible dwelling where I will spend time without end with Him, my husband, our unborn children – the one whose life I took and the two I later miscarried, and with my two children who are living and in Christ.  I have looked my unborn in the face, have repented for the part I played in their deaths, and now my husband and I have named them, in honor of their short lives. 

I don’t need to invent a home for my unborn children, because I know where they are, and in Whose lap they dwell.  I no longer think of them as quenched potential, though I would have preferred if they had not died. But who would have thought that they could teach so deeply and with such love, gently drawing me nearer to my Savior?  Perhaps the selfless giving they did was their ministry that is continuing even long after their deaths as I continue to grow in understanding what this salvation means. Perhaps they did fulfill their potential – more than many who live 100 years.

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3)