I Don't Care

One side effect of depression that has surprised me most is an accompanying disposition of "I don't care" -- not just about other people's opinions, or other people's problems, but even about the mundane issues of life. When just getting out of bed and into the shower to take care of myself is a major struggle, or in tending to the daily chores of my job, maintaining concern about the opinions or problems of others does not even register as being even remotely significant to me.

I am not used to this disposition because I generally and genuinely do care about others. Henri Nouwen, when enduring his own bleak season, could "no longer sleep, cried uncontrollably for hours, was unaffected by consoling words of friends, was uninterested in other people's problems, had no appetite for food, and lost all his appreciation of music, art, and nature."1 A motivating factor instrumentally causing this season of despair was not allowing himself to the expression of part of his humanity -- the desire to love and to be loved, by a man, by a member of his own gender.

I can certainly relate, as I am experiencing the same. Now, you must know that I don't actually care what anyone thinks about this, because this is my reality and I refuse any longer to ignore or deny my own reality. I've done that for years; and, actually, it led to some despicable results. I can only relate to you what I'm experiencing. Other than that we will all have to rely on the mercy and grace of God. If God were to experience a change of heart, and no longer care to extend mercy, grace, and love to me because of my desire to love someone, that is certainly God's prerogative but I doubt that accurately reflects God's nature. God promised to never leave nor forsake me (Heb. 13:5). But there is more.


God created me, so we insist theologically, and God already knew all about my ontology (state of being). If God already knew and knows about my current state, and God is committed to gracing me and mercying me and loving me, how, then, should I view myself? Should I heap condemnation upon condemnation upon myself when God has, in Christ, removed all condemnation from me by grace through faith (Rom. 8:1)? I think not. In his private journal, Henri Nouwen notes that some people
have lived such oppressed lives that their true selves have become completely unreachable to them. They need help to break through their oppression. Their power to free themselves has to be at least as strong as the power that keeps them down. Sometimes they need permission to explode: to let out their deepest emotions and to shake off the alien forces. Screaming, yelling, crying, and even physical fighting [Henri once used a punching bag] might be expressions of liberation.2
Henri cautions himself, though, stating: "You, however, do not seem to need such explosion. For you, the problem is not to get something out of your system but to take something in that deepens and strengthens your sense of your goodness and allows your anguish to be embraced by love."3 He summed up my current state of mind in that sentence. My cousin Denise insists, and I think she's right, that what I have experienced lately is an awakening. I'm not angry; I'm just waking up from a 21-year heavily-influenced-to-a-self-suppressed inner need to love and be loved.

When I allow myself to dream about loving someone, and being loved by him, and also serving and worshiping the Lord, I gain a sense of hope, and I begin to care once again about life. But when I think to myself that I am not permitted to such a dream, a darkness shrouds my being, and I have little room for caring -- about life, about a future, about myself or others. Even if that love never materializes, for now, I need to allow myself to at least dream. I actually do care about not caring.

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1 Michael Ford, Wounded Prophet: A Portrait of Henri J.M. Nouwen (New York: Image Books, 2002), 168.

2 Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom (New York: Image Books, 1998), 74.

3 Ibid.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.