A note from Amy:
With coronavirus on the rise we, as a people, ought to be united in ending this thing. Many of us are striving to protect the most vulnerable from the ravages of this virus. But who are the most vulnerable right now? If you answered that our elderly and those with compromised immune systems are then you are right. If you answer that the impoverished are then you are again correct. If you were to answer that my little boy, Jack, with his complex heart disease is then you would again be right. But what of those who are fighting a private battle of the mind? There are countless people worldwide with mental health sensitivities who are plagued with rising anxiety, unmet doctor’s and counseling appointments, and an ever deepening depression while being deprived of the one thing which we all need as we need air and food. Touch. Camaraderie. Communion.
I am pleased to introduce to you all, Justin Wiggins, a fellow writer and one who knows, as I do, the extreme agony of living with chronic and debilitating depression. He has lived it and come out victorious.
Trigger warning: If you struggle with depression and/or suicidal thoughts, this post may feel heavy on the onset. But don’t worry, it has a happy ending! However, please know that the content discusses depression and suicide and should be read with forbearance.
I have wept thinking about all that I would have missed out on if my battle with depression had destroyed me years ago. I can still remember what it was like coming to that point of despair and hopelessness where being a conscious human being on the planet was a wretched curse. I saw no point in existence, I found it hard to function, I posted incredibly alarming things on social media, and I was really troubled by the fact that some Fathers actually have the audacity to abandon their sons.
I didn’t hate my father, I was just incredibly disturbed that he didn’t fight his addiction enough to be there for his son. I loved him, but his absence caused some very intense issues with depression, worldview and identity confusion. Those issues led me to not wanting to be here any longer, so I just simply decided to check out by attempting suicide. I came to the rather unfortunate conclusion that I was perhaps deluded, and what I believed about this good and loving benevolent Creator, was nothing but a human fabrication that was a lie concocted by human beings because we feared death so much, and simply couldn’t bear reality-this ruled out all religious claims period. Yet, through all of the anger, grief, failure, mistakes, horrific anxiety and depression, and my qualms with cultural fundamentalism, I made it, and I cannot say it was simply by chance, but by grace. Indeed, there is no logical reason why I should have made it because all the odds were against me.
Just as Susan and Lucy were comforted by the risen Aslan in Lewis’ wonderful and iconic book The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, published in 1950, so was I surprised by the agape love of The Great Artist. How? In numerous ways- through counseling, community, important decisions, failure, triumphs, scripture, sacraments, laughter, work, rest, love, joy, the power of music, books, film, and art, and also very personal transcendent experiences of His love, gentleness, strength, and goodness which gave me enough of a seed of faith to sustain my belief in Him, allowing me to see the virtue of faith for what it is, and not a delusion, which so many thinkers have made faith out to be.
Different worldviews were incredibly fascinating to me, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Paganism, and others, and I have met so many wonderful people that have different worldviews from my own that I have learned quite a lot from, but when it came down to it, Jesus of Nazareth was the same Jesus of faith and history whose wounds healed my own wounds, and hallelujah, I found healing I never knew was possible.
A miracle can be defined as simply waking up in the morning, and it also can be defined as something so dramatic which happens in your life, that you cannot explain it away in some empirical logical way – human reasoning is quite fascinating and brilliant, but also very limited, as we are continuously discovering. The transition from lying on a suicide hospital bed, to coming to live in the mountains of North Carolina, coming to have an amazing diverse and eclectic community, graduating with my bachelors in literature from Montreat College, getting to fly for the first time in my life to Oxford, England, and finishing a book called Surprised by Agape because Mr. Grant Hudson believed in it, rich conversations, podcast interviews, life changing experiences, and finding ways to serve and give back, is all quite an astonishing miracle. In that context, David Hume and Bertrand Russell are wrong about there being nothing divine, and C. S. Lewis, and George MacDonald are right about there being a good and loving Father who cares about all of His children, in my view. Of course, there are times when I have my doubts about it all, but as I have found, through doubting, paradoxically, one’s faith becomes strengthened.
In November 2019, there was an amazing Symposium in beautiful Montreat, North Carolina, inspired by the writings of the Irish literary scholar and lay theologian, C.S. Lewis, whose work has changed many people’s lives around the world. Oh the conversation, laughs, and rich memories I made at that conference! Reflecting on it now as I write this and listen to the heavy rain falling outside in the wee hours of this Sunday morning, I am reminded that my life is a story being told by The Great Artist, and that this journey of faith is quite an epic quest full of danger, struggle, questions, growth, beauty, joy, humor, love, and passion. And I am incredibly honored to be alive, loved, and appreciated!
Justin’s book, Surprised by Agape, chronicles his journey from the bowels of mental brokenness into a fragile and then growing faith. He found new roots in the life giving place of fellowship, beauty, and (thank God) C.S. Lewis’ beautiful works. You can find him on Instagram as justin.wiggins.18 and Facebook as Justin Wiggins.
Want to be a guest writer? Join the Conspiracy (the rather fitting name for a gathering of Ravens) by emailing your submission or pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org with “submissions” in the subject line.
Beauty from Ashes living. One moment at a time.