Published in the Rains County Leader on April 14, 2022:
Last week was a hard one, not so much for me personally, but for several people who are important to me. A friend lost a long-fought battle with cancer, a family member was unjustly accused of scandalous behavior, a sweet young lady lost her first love, and a friend who is normally the life of the party is suffering through a bout of depression. As if that weren’t enough, we’re entering the week on the Christian calendar during which we remember the betrayal, death, and burial of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In deciding what to share this week, my thoughts drifted back to a time when my own son experienced what the doctor called a psychotic depression. To paraphrase the opening line from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, it was the worst of times, but it ended up being the best of times. Following is an excerpt from my first memoir about a special day during that time:
My heart ached as I watched this brilliant young man, who was always going, doing, thinking, or creating, do little more than exist. Day after day, wearing baggy shorts, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap, he sat in front of the TV until I came home from work. His long, blond hair that was normally meticulously washed and brushed became stringy and oily, and more often than not, he forgot to eat. He lost weight and began to look severely emaciated. His normally erect posture became slumped and downcast. He visited with Dr. E periodically and took the various medications he prescribed, looking for the magic combination that would break the bonds that held him in his pit. I continued to pray.
Then that special day came.
I came home from work, tired from eight hours of solving problems and burdened by the seemingly unsolvable problem waiting at home. I knew he would look expectantly at me for a reason to get up off the couch. I didn’t feel like cooking, and wanting to at least get him out of the house, I said, “Wanna go to Taco Bell?”
We went, and at some point during the meal, I noticed subtle differences in Christian. Instead of slumping forward with his head hanging down as if it were too heavy for his neck, he sat somewhat erect and looked at me as he talked. He was talking! Hoping to prolong a good evening, I made another suggestion.
“How about some yogurt?”
“Sure. Why not,” he said in an almost enthusiastic tone.
We drove to TCBY, got our treats, and sat down at a small table to continue our talk. I couldn’t focus on either the discussion or my yogurt. All I could do was stare at my son. The young man across from me was sitting back in his chair with his legs crossed and one arm draped across the back of the chair beside him – and he was smiling. Smiling!
“Christian, I don’t know where you’ve been, but you’re back!”
He looked a little puzzled at first. Then a look of realization slowly brightened his face.
“You know, I do feel a little better.”
After that, he continued to feel better, a little at a time. He moved back to Carrollton, finished college, got a job, and made a wonderful life for himself. He married Amy – a gift from God – and he fathered two beautiful children, two more gifts. He is a published author, a performing musician, and a constant reminder to me that God loves him and cares for him much more and much better than I ever could.
Life will get better for those I mentioned earlier, too. Those who knew and loved my friend with cancer will grieve for a season, but there is also joy because we know she knew and loved Jesus. My family member is devastated by the betrayal of one he thought was a friend, but he prays for healing for all concerned and believes his prayers will be answered. The young lady who lost her love will cry for a while, but youth is resilient, and she will love again. And healing has begun for my depressed friend.
Toward the end of last week, I went to a meeting that he also attended. In the beginning, he reminded me of Christian – baseball cap pulled down over his eyes and head down, making eye contact with no one. But as the meeting went on, his normal good nature began to resurface. His slumped posture straightened, and before the meeting ended, he had us all laughing. I’m sure he has more work to do, but it’s a start.
This past Sunday we remembered the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem when crowds met Him with praises and palm branches and hailed Him as the blessed one who “comes in the name of the Lord.” But as Holy Week progresses, we remember how the atmosphere changed, ending on Friday with death on a Roman cross. As we travel our own roads through life, they will sometimes be filled with grief, loss, and heart-break – but with His help, we can survive – because, after Friday, Sunday always comes!
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5b