I'm through with love, The Rev. Matt Gaventa
Sunday sermon from Sunday, August 17, 2014
Text: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Given at Amherst Presbyterian Church, Amherst, Virginia
When I was 15 years old my father disappeared without leaving the house. His body didn’t go anywhere new, but he disappeared, and this pale imitation showed up in his place. In some ways, it was a pretty good copy. For a while, he could go to his job, he could go to the grocery store, he could drop off the dry cleaning. I’m sure the clerk at the gas station didn’t notice anything different. But we knew, mom and I, we knew. Or at least she knew. I’d like to tell you that I was right there, that I was in the room when we first noticed that real Dad had been swapped out for some cut-rate photocopy, but I was 15, and life was busy, and I was busy with everything except the emotional health of my own parents, which had never in my life been something that I had needed to take care of. I can’t swear that I was paying close enough attention to notice that my father had in fact disappeared, but it makes me look a little better in this story if I loop myself in, so let’s just say: when I was 15, my father disappeared without leaving home, and only a very few people knew, but Mom and I, we knew.
The thing was, once you noticed, you couldn’t not notice. My father — and some of you have met him, and maybe you will recall enough to back me up — my father can talk to anyone. He’s got no end of charisma; he’s got no end of charm. He smiles with his eyes, and the way he does it is just to let out for a split second some fractional gasp of the joy that radiates in his heart, and it lights up the room, and when he disappeared, everything changed. When that pale copy of my father entered the room, you could feel the temperature drop five degrees. You could taste the shadow of a few scattered clouds drifting in front of the sunlight. He was a grayscale ghost in a technicolor world, and when you looked in his eyes – when you looked in its eyes – there was no smile. There was no joy. He didn’t want to talk to you; he didn’t want to know you, he didn’t want anything, because he wasn’t there, because he’d disappeared, without leaving home.
I don’t remember when I first heard the word “Depression,” I mean, in a clinical sense. Anybody can be depressed; everybody gets depressed, lower-case D, every once in a while. I get depressed when the Braves are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, which, judging by their performance as of late, will be any moment now, but that wasn’t this. This was the real deal. On my 16th birthday my parents, in conjunction with my dad’s therapist, decided that my father was under such a cloud of acute Clinical Depression as to merit hospitalization. As a birthday present, they waited until the day after to let me know, which, in retrospect, seems fair. He checked himself in to the psychiatric wing of Princeton hospital, the acute ward, which is the one where they take your shoelaces and your belt and anything else that you can make into a noose. It was a very grayscale place, and it fit him perfectly.
Mom and I didn’t really talk about it with the outside world, not much. What do you say that possibly sets anybody up to ask a follow-up question you might want to answer? “Well, my father’s in the hospital with acute Clinical Depression” invariably led to something like “What’s he so sad about?” which may be actually the worst possible follow-up question. Were there parts of my father’s biography helping to gather the fuel for his Depression? Absolutely. He grew up in a family where expressing your emotions wasn’t exactly smiled upon, and as a consequence it was always going to be harder for him to process anger, shame, anxiety, fear, you name it. And were there parts of my father’s life in 1995 that helped light the match? Almost certainly. His office routine was stressful in ways I don’t think anybody else has ever entirely understood, and, you know, he had a bratty teenage son who probably wasn’t helping anything. Well, I told him I loved him. More than a few times. We all did. What else can you do? I told him I loved him, because it was true, and because I didn’t know what else to say, and because I didn’t know how else I could help, and because I thought it might help, and because I thought “how could anyone be sad who is so well loved?,” and because I thought “Love never fails,” and because I thought “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” and surely, if we love him enough, if he just sees how much we love him, surely he’ll come back.
Read the rest HERE at Matt's blog - www.mattgaventa.org