At Least There is Hope for a Tree

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If you’ve been following this blog and/or if you follow me on Facebook you’ve probably picked up on the fact that things haven’t been going well for me for awhile. It’s frustrating when you are doing everything you’re “supposed to” and still have a relapse of symptoms. Spring mania is pretty much in full swing. We’ve done a med adjustment and I’ve been seeing my therapist even more often than usual to try to deal with this and keep me from really having a manic episode and the inevitable crash that follows.

I can affirm this: things have been worse. Much, much worse. But I don’t know that I’ve felt more helpless and hopeless than this. If I were to stop taking my meds or not go to therapy and have a relapse of symptoms then the illusion of control would stay intact. There would be cause and effect. My actions would directly lead to that result.

But I have been adherent. I have been completely adherent. I have taken all meds as prescribed. I have been going to therapy. A lot. I have watched my diet. I have been exercising. I have been monitoring my sleep and working to keep it as consistent as possible. I am doing my job, and yet I’m still in a bad way right now. I’m still experiencing strong suicidal ideation and an awful lot of self-harm. I feel like I’m losing myself. Things are getting pretty desperate.

If you know me personally then you know that Job is my favorite book of the Bible. I’m weird that way. People like to avoid that book. It’s dark. It’s depressing (it really isn’t but that’s too much to get into right now). Most people are Easter and Christmas people. I’m a Lent and Advent person. I live in uncertainty. I live in doubt. I live in loneliness and in the preparation for the coming of a savior that may just not actually happen.

Job is a poetic theological argument. Job refutes temporal retribution, the idea that people get what they deserve in this life. Job did everything he was “supposed to” even more so than I am. He did everything better than he was supposed to, really. He’s presented in the first chapter as being, essentially, better than any person who had ever lived. And yet horrible, tragic things happened to him.

There is a poem in the 14th chapter of Job that never fails to resonate with me in the darkness. The poem begins in the first verse of the chapter, but I’m picking it up in the seventh verse, where it really starts hitting home for me:

At least there is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.
Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump may die in the soil,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth shoots like a plant.
But mortals die and are laid low;
they breathe their last and are no more.
As water disappears from the sea
or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,
so mortals lie down and do not rise;
till the heavens are no more, mortals will not awake
or be roused from their sleep.

If only you would hide me in the grave
and conceal me until your anger has passed!
If only you would set a time
and then remember me!
If a mortal dies, will they live again?
All the days of my hard service
I wait for my renewal to come.
You will call and I will answer you;
you will long for the creature your hands have made.
Surely you will count my steps
but not keep track of my sin.
My offenses will be sealed up;
you will cover over my sin.

But as the mountain erodes and crumbles
and as a rock is moved from its place,
as water wears away stones,
and torrents wash away the soil,
so you destroy mortals’ hope.
You overpower them once and for all, and they are gone;
you change their countenance and send them away.
If their children are honored, they do not know it;
if they are brought low they do not see it.
They feel but the pain of their own bodies
and mourn only for themselves.

In this poem Job dares to hope against hope. At the time of the writing of Job there was no real concept of eternity in the Jewish faith. There was no life after death, not really. There was only Sheol, the darkness, the pit, the unknown. And yet Job dares to hope that maybe there is something better for him than the living hell he is experiencing.

Of course that hope doesn’t last long. In the end it’s just a pipe dream. The power that is destroying his life has the power to destroy mountains, stones, soil, the very world itself. There is no hope against such power.

That’s where I’m living right now. It is hard to dare to hope against a power that is greater than yourself and is destroying your life. Bipolar is winning. I dare to hope that there is a future beyond the way my life is currently going, but it feels like a pipe dream.