Breaking free from prison

St John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, Horsham
St John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, Horsham

I was an atheist for many years. I suffered depression for many years. Some people think these two facts might be related.

Depression is like imprisonment except that you help to build the prison yourself. Anger, guilt and fear led me to put up walls keeping everyone else out and keeping me in. And I couldn’t put a brake on my thoughts. Resentment and hostility gave me no peace.

I first went to St John’s in Horsham with my wife. I hadn’t been to a Roman Catholic Church before. The moment when everyone standing around me started shaking me by the hand and wishing me ‘peace’ was a complete surprise. How did they know how I was feeling?

Perhaps the key to the prison of depression is forgiveness. Certainly forgiving the trespasses of others frees me from a crippling resentment and hostility. Then there is the harder task of forgiving myself.

Praying the stations of the cross I realised (I am very slow on the uptake) that Jesus forgave the very people who tortured and crucified him.

This meant that nothing could cut me off from forgiveness if I sought it.

And I leave you with the words of a very wise man - one who would laugh it off if you called him that.

What he taught me was a prayer, ‘Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief’.

It is a mistake to assume atheists don’t want to believe in what Jesus stands for - such things as justice, mercy and love.

And from wanting to believe to believing is a personal journey of discovery.

Derek McMillan

St John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, Horsham