I have been thinking recently about Mother Teresa. She was a great role model of Christian faith to many. She might also have been diagnosed as chronically depressed and addicted to care-giving if she had lived in the West. How did she do what she did?
Mother Teresa’s spiritual journals apparently show that she suffered debilitating depression from the time she left her native Albania until the end of her life. Still, she gave in service constantly. What does a depressed person have to give from? For the service not to damage those served, the gift has to come not from the depressed person’s own limited resources but from God’s resources, poured through the empty channel that depression itself has carved.
A depressed person has to give not from their own limited resources but from God’s resources, poured through the empty channel that depression itself has carved.
Did Depression Open a Way to Christian Service?
Perhaps part of why Mother Teresa could show so much of God while enduring such difficult personal emotions is that she did not attempt to fill her own emptiness with what the world provides and expects, even of its missionaries. The Missionaries of Charity had limited clothing; limited accommodations; limited tasks. All Teresa asked of herself and others was that they demonstrate the greatest of these — love — toward the least of these. To accomplish that required them to scrub themselves clean on the inside every day and hour. Anything that obstructed the flow of God’s resources through them had to be removed.
I currently live in a household dominated by disabilities. Perhaps what causes us problems as a household is attempting to look like others, deal like others, put up a front so we seem to live like others.
Do I Dare to Let Disabilities Strip Me of ‘Worldly’ Goals?
As a result, I’ve just taken an indefinite hiatus from a new professional job because it wasn’t possible to maintain work demands and household requirements. My husband has two professional jobs, one part-time job and one contract, adding up to about 30 hours in an average week. I’m now looking for something I can do outside the house during the hours when my husband is at home and leave behind when I leave the job. That way (1) I can actually focus on work when I’m working, since trying to do professional work from a home office when someone is trying to explain his psychotic thought-stream to me is not very effective and (2) it will allow one of us to be in the house at most times.
Our house simply is not like many others in our suburban community. In our house, things get broken; things get lost; people are sometimes “lost.” There are hurting parts of the Body here. And as God teaches us, when one part of the Body is hurt, all parts are pained. Even more, God says in 1 Cor 13 that it is God’s way to cover those parts that seem least worthy of honor with greatest honor, so all parts of the Body would recognize their need one for another.
What Honor is Due to Disabled People Dishonored by the World?
So perhaps we will not have the income or the clothing or the predictable days we would like. But perhaps it is our job to clothe these challenged parts of the Body with greater honor and thereby to acknowledge and discover our own need for them.
What is that greater honor? God says the greatest gift is to love, then defines that love as sacrifice. This is the most daring “trust fall” anyone can take. It is a life in which we choose to share our oxygen masks, not to put on our own first, then care for others as “limited” resources allow. It is a life in which we acknowledge that if we have food and clothing and shelter, we have what is needful.
May God give us the strength to live as God’s Body according to God’s purpose instead of the world’s clangorous expectations.
Do you juggle your faith, your dreams, and your responsibilities for people in need? How do you find the balance?