These days, Hansen is a deejay for the Air1 Christian radio network. Once upon a time, though, he was the host of the morning show on WAY-FM, another Christian radio network. He had deep conversations with people who would call in during his show. He was in shape and had nice stubble. His name was well-known among Contemporary Christian music fans. He went on meaningful mission trips. And he had an excellent blog with an even more excellent title: “Letters From Kamp Krusty.”
Oh, how I hated Brant Hansen.
“Hate” is probably too strong a word to use here. It would probably be more accurate to say I was insanely jealous of Brant Hansen. I was working at a small, Christian radio station, just trying to make sure we could actually keep something on the air 24 hours a day. I didn’t have an elaborate phone system designed to put callers on the air, and I wasn’t so sure anyone would actually call in while I was on the air even if we did. I’d never been on a mission trip. My name was not only not well-known among Contemporary Christian music fans, I wasn’t sure it was known to the people across the street. And I had no blog at that time.
Yes, Brant Hansen was everything I wanted to be but wasn’t. Outgoing, witty, popular, respected by his peers. I could never measure up to any of that. We were just totally different people.
And then I read one of his blog entries titled “Is Jesus Enough?”, and I wanted to take him out for coffee.
Hansen has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder I am only vaguely aware of. At the time he wrote “Is Jesus Enough?”, though, he wasn’t exactly sure what was going on with his mind and was taking the antidepressant Fluoxetine (also know as Prozac) – and he wasn’t entirely comfortable with that fact. Since I didn’t get permission to reprint the post in its entirety, I’ll link to it here and just give you a brief excerpt:
” I’ve been taking fluoxetine for the past year, and there hasn’t been a day I haven’t struggled with the fact that I’m messing with my brain.”
As indicated by his chosen profession, Hansen is a Christian, and so am I. We’re not supposed to need help with depression. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” We’re not supposed to need things like therapy and medication. “The Lord is my strength and my shield.”
And, perhaps most importantly, we’re never, ever supposed to talk about any of this stuff.
I think I may have inadvertently left the impression with my last post that maybe Jesus isn’t enough for me anymore. That the steps I was taking to deal my dysthymia weren’t connected to Christ at all. That by acknowledging I had a problem I was somehow denying the victory of the cross. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Without the hope and peace provided by Jesus Christ, I probably would have gone over the edge long ago. It pains me to read of people dealing with depression who aren’t Christians, because I always think, “What do you hold onto then?”.
Still, to even be talking about this makes me feel as if my faith is somehow not what it should be. There are plenty of examples of depressive behavior in the Bible – Jeremiah, Elijah, David, Paul. Jeremiah wished he had never been born. David wrote Psalm after Psalm detailing his varying states of mental anguish. Elijah asked the Lord to take away his life. Paul even “despaired of life itself” at one point. And even though God did not necessarily totally lift any of these men out of their trying circumstances, I somehow feel as if they all dealt with their conditions better than I have.
I may as well go ahead and admit something here: The therapy I’ve been participating in hasn’t been strictly Christian in nature. It’s not atheistic either, though. I guess it could be defined as “secular.” If God and Jesus enter into the conversation, well enough. But they’re not necessarily introduced up front. In much the same way taking Prozac bothered Brant Hansen, participating in this kind of therapy makes me uneasy, like I’m somehow stepping out on the church.
The only way I know how to define why this works, however, is like this: I had basically reached a point where I had a low enough opinion of myself that I believed all the wonderful promises of God could not possibly be reserved for someone like me. I still believed Jesus died for my sins and I was going to heaven, but I felt like God would only be taking me in because of some glitch or technicality. I told someone not so long ago that, “I believe God loves me. I just don’t think He likes me very much.”
It’s not “I’m okay, you’re okay” therapy. In fact, the majority of it frames what I’ve been reading in the Bible for years but never taking to heart: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…” My thinking was broken and had been broken for quite some time. I couldn’t imagine anything good possibly coming from any bad situation. Some days, I still can’t. The hopefulness that comes from Christ just isn’t in me on those days, and the war is raging in my head. When Romans instructs us to “renew our minds,” can’t that include repairing our cognitive reasoning?
All this long-windedness (and I promise I’m going to try to stop writing so much) was born out of a Facebook comment I received after my last post mentioning people’s fear of discussing depression in “Christian circles.” I find it odd and more than a little sad that in a religion which instructs us to confess our sins to one another the last place we want to confess anything is within the confines of our churches. The one place we should be the most vulnerable has become the one place we want to look our shiny best. And I am guilty as anyone of judging the heck out of someone if they ever do get brave enough to admit their struggles. Everything is backwards somehow. If “Christian circles” aren’t safe anymore, where is?
I tuned in to the Air1 the other day just to catch some of Brant Hansen’s afternoon shift. Since I was using my smart phone, a graphic popped up with his picture. His stubble was still in perfect 5 o’clock shadow mode, and he was striking the cool pose by wearing a sport coat and dress shirt with no tie. His afternoon shift is apparently called “Club Awesome.” Oh, and if you go on the internet, his blog is still way better than mine.
God bless Brant Hansen. I still hate that guy. 🙂