A Hopeful Lament on Spiritual Transformation, Gluten, and Depression
by Doug Bursch
I’m tired because of the gluten or is it the depression? Did the doughnut bring about this heavy head, or is it the sorrow, the perpetual sorrow of seeing so many refuse you? Or is it my refusal, my refusal to be at peace with who I am and who you are? It seems easy to blame this heavy hearted sorrow on the rebellions around me or the gluten within me, but maybe it’s more.
What is the goal of this day? Is there a destination I’m supposed to reach with careful planning and the intentional activation of my will? Or is today simply a place to be, less a journey as a room to abide in? Is it always a race to be won, or could it be an open field, wind in my face, you twirling me, lifting me up higher than myself? Is the goal a place to laugh or an ability to understand my desire to cry? What’s with all the question marks; seems like question marks are the fruit of too much gluten. Or is it depression?
I was born into an age that embraced the power of relational math. Through postulations and experimentations we discovered countless self help and community health equations. We married these relational observations with genetic discoveries, cat scans, and neuron maps. We learned the rhythms of vacillating dopamine and serotonin levels. Experts rose up amongst us with relational math and personality postulates guaranteeing meaning, purpose, mental health, and contentment. Everyone has become more proficient in the math, but the problems seem to intensify with each generation.
The math looks so good on paper, it sounds so right when proclaimed! There is a logic to all of it. One plus one equals two. Truth plus love equals transformation. However, the practitioners sooner or later learn the dirty little secret behind the math. Over time, they see the divide between proclamation and implementation. They see the chasm between agreeing upon values and implementing values.
Here is the truth. . . . I’ve preached many messages to rooms full of head nodders. But the head nodding did not change the hearer, nor the proclaimer. Instead, I spoke, they listened, and we all continued in our rebellion. The truth did not transform, whether it was remembered or quickly forgotten.
Where does transformation ignite? Where does change abide? I find myself back in the world of question marks, long pauses, and restless wondering. The Bible is my magic book, but I haven’t yet learned the right incantation to make the rebellion disappear. I preach freedom but I can hear the rattling of chains.
This may be the gluten talking or it could be the depression. Or maybe it’s a revelation of dependence. I cannot escape my entrenched dependence. I need more than knowledge, more than the right words, more than the right environment to bring about change. No, I need the abiding miracle of God’s presence to get inside you, to get inside me. I can only stand so close to you, but I can’t get in you. And you sure as hell can’t get into me. So there is this hopeless divide, this place we cannot enter. The place where transformation begins and ends, the place of God’s abiding.
Spirit of God, Spirit who enters and abides. I want to point to you. . . . silently point to you. . . . shout and point to you. There is the power, there is the transformation, there is the reason I will always be so ineffective. No man can take your place, we can only point to and testify to your presence as we abide in this season of endless perpetual grace.