I too struggled with chapter 4. It began to take on some meaning when I read this at location 1732 (no page numbers on Kindle):
“As one reflects upon the nature of depression it becomes clear that it is a profoundly spiritual experience that cannot be understood and dealt with through drugs and therapy alone. Its central features of profound hopelessness, loss of meaning in life, perceived loss of relationship with God or higher power, low self-esteem and general sense of purposelessness, all indicate a level of spiritual distress.”
I was born into a family of depressives. Both of my “full blood siblings” suffered from it and alcoholism as did my mother and father, and alas, I inherited the gene as well. Two thing an yet a third has set me on a stable path, and for most days, I find myself happy, joyous, and free. The first thing was visiting a therapist in the mid-80’s. You might have even heard of him, Rick Underwood. I wanted a therapist who approached therapy from a spiritual point of view. We did some serious exploration of my background and coping skills. I’m forever grateful.
The second was joining a 12-Step program 23 years ago. In “The Big Book” Bill Wilson writes:
“We could wish to be moral, we could wish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could will these things with all our might, but the needed power wasn’t there. Our human resources, as marshalled by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly. 45:1 Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power?” (45)
Obviously, I wanted a strong moral foundation; I wanted a philosophical and theological belief system that gave me a reason to and a path to a spiritual life. I never lost my belief in “a Power greater than myself,” but I worked with the notion that G-d did not become active in people’s lives much less mine.
The third thing I desired was a strong spiritual community. I got two. First came the members of my 12-Step group followed some years later with my membership in Crescent Hill Baptist Church. In Louisville, there are over 400 12-Step communities that meet weekly. I started another, as if that’s what Louisville needed, another meeting! We called it “Change of Heart.” The name for the meeting comes from a sentence on page 55 paragraph 5, thus we meet at 5:55 on Thursday nights: “His change of heart was dramatic, convincing, and moving.” We started 6 years ago with 7 members. Today we average over 50 each week. It is one of the larger in our community. My membership in CHBC also began 6 years ago. I had fallen away from church but not away from G-d. While “the 5:55”, as many call it, helped tremendously with my spiritual condition and my search for a higher power, I wanted even more. CHBC proved to be that “more”. Our pastor, Jason Crosby is a graduate of Centre College and Vanderbilt Divinity School and is an excellent scholar preacher. About 2 years ago, I found a “community within the community” and started a Sunday School class that does a “deep dive” in Scripture each week using the Lectionary readings for the week. Our pastors use the Lectionary, so our class members get a double dose and double perspective of the readings each week.
These three approaches have helped me with want Swinton called the “loss of relationship with God or higher power, low self-esteem and general sense of purposelessness, all indicate a level of spiritual distress.” Swinton further observes: “It is therefore necessary for a person to be aware of their own historical situatedness and the ways in which it influences their interpretations of those texts, objects, people, and events we choose to seek to understand.” (Location 1848) I no longer feel I am taken “the road less traveled.” I’m finding instead a host of witnesses and helpers who have traveled this same road and are more than willing to share their journey.