December 07, 2023

Give thanks even for the fleas

By Curt Swarm

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1Thess 5:16-18)

I’ve been reading about Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie, Calvinist Christians in Holland who believed in giving aid and shelter to the Jews during World War II. For their efforts they were taken prisoner by the Nazis and put into a concentration camp. They were held in squalid barracks that were infested with fleas. Betsie had to remind Corrie to give thanks, even for the fleas. Corrie was flabbergasted and told Betsie that she could not give thanks for fleas. But Betsie was persistent and Corrie finally relented and prayed to God, giving thanks, even for the fleas.

The Nazi guards strangely left the women alone in their squalid, overcrowded cells, to have their Bible studies and prayer groups. Later the women found out why the guards left them alone while in their cells. It was because of the fleas!

I love this story and gave it a lot of thought. Like many people, I am plagued with daily depression, usually in the morning. I cope with it, although it gets old, and have found over the years that the best cure for depression is to get busy and do something. My morning aerobic workout on the elliptical machine is a good cure. Endorphins are a great, non-harmful, mood-altering substance. It’s getting out there and exercising that’s a chore. Dragging Ginnie along with me to walk on the treadmill, helps a lot.

I have also found that on the days that the depression is the worst (it’s usually in the winter on cold, gray days), if I get busy and write, that it’s also one of my most creative days. Hmm: depression tied to creativity. I know from reading biographies of artists that many famous artists have been plagued with chronic depression.

There’s such a stigma when it comes to talking about depression, or low self-esteem. It’s not one of your more popular dinner-table topics. It’s like it’s the person’s fault that they’re depressed.

I have trouble writing or talking about my depression, but in reality, depression plagues our modern society and fuels Big Pharma. I fear that you, the reader, will change your opinion of me. Yes, I am a people pleaser. Most people are. We all want to be liked. Or most of us.

I’m also sure that the main reason I’m an alcoholic (in recovery, clean and sober 33 years) is that I was self-medicating. The initial high I got from alcohol and drugs was so uplifting, so mood-altering, I was attracted to it like a magnet. The trouble was that the initial high was temporary. It led directly to blackouts, jail cells, car wrecks, and, the list goes on.

I’ve said all that to say this: in thinking about Corrie ten Boom’s story, thanking God for the fleas (we all have fleas in our life), I decided to reverse-psychology the depression and thank God for it. “Thank you God for the depression, for it is through depression that I grow and create good works.”

I was almost immediately struck down by this cold and flu bug that’s going around. No, it wasn’t COVID. Our home test was negative. But I was one sick pup — body aches, cough, the crud, the whole gamut. Rest assured, Ginnie took good care of me — homemade chicken noodle soup and chocolate pie. My oh my, I’m a lucky guy.

Then it hit me. I was so sick, I forgot to be depressed. Well, I’ll be. Thank you, God! What’s a little depression compared to diarrhea in Walmart? I can handle it. Give me some depression so that I can be creative and produce great works!

Life is so full of surprises. As long as we’re in tune to understand and realize where it’s coming from.

“In all things, give thanks.” Even for the fleas.

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