(Photo courtesy of @gabexphoto)
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS CONTENT FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY
Own Your Oddness
Stepping Out of Depression and Into Your Identity
By Ben Courson
The black sun of the melancholia swam behind stygian clouds. A sevenfold horror of outerdarkness crashed down upon me. The words of the poet rang psychic cherries in my head, “I myself am hell; nobody’s here.”
My hope was gone like Enron.
I had stumbled into my kitchen, fumbling open the knife drawer. I grabbed the blade, mustering up the courage to plunge the cold steel into my flesh; freeing my soul from its platonic prison house. Consciousness was a living hell, and I wanted out. It was high time to die.
Of course, this is a far cry from the laughing, skating goofball my friends knows me for today, with EDM blaring from my backpack as I go on adventures with God and adventures with squad.
Somehow, the God of hope swayed the blade that was going to deal pale death that day. I could not kill the divine spark within me, no matter how much the shadows within me whispered promises that it would soon snuff. God is a consuming fire…and the fire inside me burned brighter than the fiery tribulation around me.
I couldn’t manage to off myself. Thank God.
The greatest thing I ever did was continuing to live when all I wanted was to die.
Though the poisonous bank of fog rolled in that afternoon as it always did, I didn’t kill myself that day. Since then, the healing balm of Gillead has been applied to my wounds. Though my struggle with chronic depression had me beat for ten years, I’d sown in tears to now reap in joy. Seeing as how Centennials and Millennials, Gen Z and Gen Y are now statistically the most depressed generations in recorded history. I can connect the dots only by looking backward: I now see why God saw fit to let me go through depression. It was so that I could reach this generation. It’s one thing to say, “hear my words,” it’s something else to say, “touch my wounds.” It’s one thing to theorize how to beat depression, it’s another to realize victory over it and to empathize with the depressed. It’s one thing to talk about hope…it’s another thing to BECOME hope for others. I chose to be greater than what I suffered. I stopped looking for the light; decided to become it instead. I figured I would make my dreams come true by actually getting out of bed. I chose to stop fantasizing about my visions and instead work toward my dreams to vanquish the nightmares that stole my joy. Depression said, “I’m gonna make like Capone and mob out.” They saw taillights.
So what is depression? I agree with Jim Carey as he defined it: depression is the attempt to hold up an image to the world that is not who we truly are. Sometimes we think we want to disappear, when all we really want is to be found. Discovered. Explored. The temptation to hide who we really are is fierce because we are innately wracked by the fear of losing the acceptance of others if we let our true colors show. Apologizing for NOT being what others expect, however, leaves us wandering through the desert, in search of our better selves, suffering cognitive dissonance.
I have three words for you, three simple uncomplicated words to coax you out of your depression into your identity:
Let’s unpack that, shall we? Back in Bible times, it was a curse to be left-handed. There are three lefties mentioned in the Bible, and they all come from the tribe of Benjamin (whose name means “son of my right hand”). Odd, right? All the southpaws were from the right-handed tribe. One such southpaw was named Ehud. Ehud was an Israeli hero who killed 10,000 lusty men of Moab, and assassinated their evil king. The reason he was able to accomplish this Navy Seal Team 6 military op is all due to the fact that the Moabites foolishly didn’t go all DEFCON 1 on Ehud precisely BECAUSE he was a lefty. They let him slip past security. Back then, in order to get into the presence of the king, the palace guard would usually frisk your left hip (since right-handed people draw their sword across the body from their left hip). TSA would’ve only frisked Ehud’s left hip, because most people were right-handed. It was exactly because he was a “cursed” southpaw that he could bring his sword to bear in the presence of a king, without getting caught, since he drew it unorthodoxly from his right hip. In other words, his oddness was his asset.
Being a southpaw from the right-handed tribe helped him defeat the wicked king Eglon. When Ehud stabbed Eglon, his sword disappeared in his body fat. He lost his dagger but he won the battle. God did a curse reverse: Ehud’s shame became his glory. The cursed southpaw used his left hand to win salvation that day for his people. His oddness helped him overcome the opposition.
That’s how human flourishing works. Hope wins the day when we understand our shame is our glory. Or, as Paul would say, our weakness is our strength. The very thing that doesn’t let you fit in empowers you to stand out. The very thing that makes you different makes you make a difference. Case in point: people who suffer oppression are the very ones who start the most effective movements against it. Take Rosa Parks. She was relegated to the back of the bus and MLK was jailed for his message as a youth and yet it was their oppression that helped them put anti-oppression bills into motion and initiate civil rights movements. That’s why recovering alcoholics start AA meetings. We help others most potently where we have suffered most poignantly. Our hurts become our powers. For me, I was so depressed that when God began healing and training me in the art of hope, it became a message I was willing to die for. Hope has become my greatest strength, because I can now relate to and walk with people through their own depression, seeing as how I went through it myself.
In other words…
My scars became my stars.
People are impressed with you because of your strengths, but they connect with you because of your weaknesses.
Hope Generation, the organization I founded, is an anti-suicide movement. And it’s a dream birthed from nightmares. I started it because I’ve tasted death, and I never want anyone else to have to. Medical scientists try to cure cancer and social activists try to cure AIDS but I’m an extreme optimist trying to cure the disease of suicide. Sure enough, people ARE finding hope all around the world through this body of work. My dream to make a difference has come true. You see, when I was 17, God gave me a vision that I’d be on a TV show that aired nationally to impact people. A few weeks ago, we filmed pickup scenes for our ONE HUNDREDTH national TV episode (!!!!!!!) now airing on 11 different television networks. It’s a miracle. Dreams. Do. Happen. Don’t. Give. Up.
Years ago when I told people about my dream to make a national impact, they thought I had smog in the noggin and was cuckoo for my Coco Puffs. A national TV show? Ya right. Like THAT’S gonna happen. I lived in Ruch, Oregon, population: four. Because we are our dreams, when people scorned mine I felt unloved on a cellular, molecular level, like I was flawed in some deep-seated way. I felt the need to hide my desires and stop visioneering in front of others so as not to be mocked. I concealed myself. I felt fake. I tried to fit in and be what people expected me to be: normal. It made me miserable. So instead, I decided to lock myself in a room and go to work. God helped me to hone my speaker/author craft for 11,073 hours in five years to focus on my ability, trusting God would take care of my opportunity. I worked in defiance of my depression, and sure enough he opened the door for Hope Generation to be on radio around the nation, TV around the globe, gather millions of views online, and impact thousands live. Paul said he had not been disobedient to his heavenly vision, so I determined to keep on visioneering by faith even when I couldn’t do so by sight. He said he worked harder than any other apostle (which is why he was the most influential of them all). And I determined to follow his example and grind even when nothing made sense.
Success means persevering when you don’t understand what is happening around you.
Because our brain scans are so rudimentary and elementary, we humans often don’t understand hardly ANYTHING happening around us. We humans have almost nothing figured out. As Job and the Psalmist both affirmed: no one can know all the works of God because His greatness is unsearchable. We haven’t got it all figured out. It’s been said that faith doesn’t answer all our questions, but it knows where to take them…
Just as we don’t understand what happens in the earth’s depths, so we don’t understand the depths we go through on earth. We don’t always know why we go through storms…but what we do know is that while the wind and the waves could not wake Jesus, the cry of human need could. As you endure Euroclydon, brave the wave, swim the Styx, venture the valley of the shadow of death, thole the thunderhead, weather the whirlwind, survive the storm, and trend the tempest, remember the storm can’t ever take you where God won’t always keep you. Your suffering is in the service of your destiny. God will turn your pain into power and your visions into victories. Own your oddness and your shame will become your glory. No matter how crazy your dreams are, don’t deny them. Depression happens when you deny your desires; hope happens when you move more deeply into your desires. In the words of David, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” God doesn’t put desires there to FRUSTRATE you…He puts desires in your heart to FULFILL you. Why live in hell when there is no place like hope?