Trapped at the intersection of Christian expectation and secular scrutiny

Posted on February 6, 2011. Filed under: Commentary, Personal Growth and Freedom | Tags: , , , |

She’s one of the darlings of Canadian sport. Her exploits in the Summer and Winter Olympics have made her legendary. Her charity work for organizations such as Right to Play have made her beloved.

But what many of us didn’t know, until recently, is that she has had to battle demons of a very personal kind. Hughes battled deep depression, which threatened to derail her life, after winning two bronze medals in cycling at the 1996 Olympics.

from CBC News, February 6th, 2011

The Clara Hughes’ story or perhaps revelation would be a better word, is powerful on many levels.

To begin you have an Olympic medalist, which would naturally imply to most an athletic prowress that is shaped through a mindset centered on a herculean level of self-discipline and self-assurance.  This perspective is  probably why athletes gain significant celebrity and wealth.  It would never cross our minds that with the fame and success that accompanies athletic accomplishment, there is a person who is subject to the same frailties that effect all human beings living in a fallen world.

Hughes’ comment that “I didn’t know what to do with all these things because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I just knew something was wrong, but I felt like I should’ve been able to fix it, and there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t fix myself, and I couldn’t make myself better,” not only speaks directly to this reality but, also reflects the dilemma we as Christians face with more regularity than perhaps we would care to admit.

For some reason, and like a champion athlete, when we become Christians we think that we too should be equally invincible, and that the attitudes and responses we have should no longer reflect our secular selves.  In essence, we believe that we should know better and are quick to chastise ourselves when we ineviatbly fall short – and we do, of the ideal that we have come to embrace as being a member of God’s family.  The level of expectation is even higher when we are raised in a Christian home.

How can I suffer from depression . . . I am a Christian, we ask ourselves.  Why do I find it difficult to make ends meet financially, doesn’t God provide and, believing that He does, what am I doing wrong.

Of course fanning the flames of this eroding view of ourselves and our “level of faith” is a secular world, which grasping for answers, is all to eager to jump on what they would call bad behavior on the part of Christians in a see I told you so type of taunt.  A misery loves company kind of salutation that somehow makes them feel good to know that they themselves are not the only ones in a quagmire of confusion and disappointment.

It is a very interesting dance that we do while being in the world without being part of the world.

For more years than I would care to remember, I lived within this self-perpetuating cycle of desired affirmation and failed expectation, where with each misstep in the form of an angry word or a passing judgment on the actions of another, would ultimately lead to deflating self-chastizement.  After all, I am a Christian, I should know better!

She said ‘What’s wrong, Clara? You know, you can talk to me about this.’ And I just started telling her how I had been feeling for months at that time, and she just said ‘It sounds like you might be dealing with depression, and a lot of people deal with this, and there are many way you can look for help. … We’re going to get you better, and it’s going to be OK.’

That last point was really important for me, because that was the point where I realized that maybe I didn’t have to try and fix it by myself.

Similar to Clara Hughes’ epiphany that not only did other people suffer from depression but, that she did not have to “try and fix it herself,” we too has Christians have to be honest with ourselves and one another in terms of confessing our failures and shortcomings.  Besides corresponding with Bible direction (James 5:16), a non-judgmental acknowledgement that we miss the mark means that we can unleash the power of God through the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. 

This is the true liberation and meaning of Christianity in that we are a work in progress, and that despite our human fallibility we can take great comfort and have unquestionable confidence in what we read in Philipians 1:6 “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

With the knowledge of such an Amazing Grace, we can therefore run the race with an assurance that we do not do so alone, and that despite the inevitable stumbles and life challenges, our God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

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2 Responses to “Trapped at the intersection of Christian expectation and secular scrutiny”

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Fantastic! Love it! Totally agree! God has been shoved in a box called church for so long, some Christians have forgotten His true definition – LOVE. As Christians we are not untouched by challenges, big or small. Christ Himself told us that upon acceptance of Him and Lord of our life, our existence would in fact become MORE difficult. Like the old bumper sticker says, Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts Wesley . . . I could not have said it any better myself.


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