3.01.2011

Random Dissonance 3 - Scattered Showers


Depression is not sobbing and crying and giving vent.  It is plain and simple reduction of feeling...  People who keep stiff upper lips find that it's d#*n hard to smile.
Judith Guest


To have passed through the storm of deep and lasting depression and come out on the other side brings a great deal of circumspect to one's life.  Today I stood in the middle of a grassy field, bathed in uninterrupted sunlight, basking in the warmth of restoration, and allowing the sun drenched heat to sink into my bones - far beyond my skin, down to the deepest parts of me.  I am well.  I am well and I refuse to take it for granted.  I am well and I will not waste this wellness on pointless busy-ness.  I am well and well-pleased to thank God for my wellness.  I thank God that He spoke into my storm and said once and for all, "peace."  And the storm became still.  The storm became still and the clouds - once maverick and malicious - began to drift away, out of my sight and beyond my horizon.

Before my storm I stood in the bath of wellness and did not know (with any particular awareness) that what I had was a gift.  So I took that gift and I used it.  I used it up and I abused it.  I treated it much as early American land owners treated their slaves.  I owned it without regard for it's significance or grandeur.  I took advantage of my wellness and never felt any regard for the damage I did to it.  I felt myself generous when I invested wee hours in prayer, reflection, meditation, or any other such method of care.  Like a slave owner considered himself exceedingly generous to give a large family of African slaves a single chicken with which to celebrate Christmas, I thought my investments - meager and emaciated - to be something magnanimous and noteworthy.  I took pride in my paltry investment.  I was a fool.

While I was ignoring the gift that nurtured me, fed me, made me rich - there were clouds gathering on the horizon.  Instead of seeing those clouds for the impending storm that they were, I ignored the clouds and scattered showers as if they were so insignificant that I could not be affected by them.  My wellness in tact, I did not know the threat that these rain-sprays represented.  I did not know that they could join together like the allied forces of an enemy attacker. But, like terrorists they would indeed sneak into my midst under the radar and infiltrate my heart, mind, spirit, and my physical body.  And these clouds would deliver a devastating blow...  These scattered showers, with well-coordinated cunning were soon to crash into my life like a fuel laden airliner into a steel scraper.  And they would nearly melt my frame from the inside.

"That one looks like Thomas the Tank Engine," said elder child with all the sugar that one can only possess at the age of 2.  In the tender days of childhood, cotton like clouds take on the form of our favorite things.  My life filled with childhood whimsy, this time as the parent and not the child, I have often found myself looking for favorite forms in the white billows of precipitation that bound across the big skies of Central California farmland.  And with uninfected innocence I watched clouds laced with nuclear rain drift into my emotional and spiritual environment.  Instead of recognizing them for the threat they presented, I childishly stared at the sky with unconcerned naivete.

I cannot now look back and clearly identify which cloud bore which name as they drifted into my life.  I cannot say that I first felt the rain of overwork, or overconfidence, or sadness.  And I am not sure that I can even yet identify each cloudy rain burst by its true name.  But some, I can see clearly.  Some I recognize as the ingredients of a terrorist storm.

Falling gently, like a drizzle in my soul, these are the things that floated into my life and, unattended, joined forces to imprison me in depression.  What seemed like determination and dedication turned into overwork without warning.  A little less sun.  What appeared to be visionary resolution morphed into blinded overconfidence.  A little less sun.  There began a small shift in spiritual disciplines, from a fluid daily conversation with Almighty, finding moments in scripture, prayer, reflections, and meditation.  My spiritual life became a stilted regimented responsibility, motivated by 'keeping up appearances' instead of empowered by closeness with Everlasting.  The rain drops graze my skin.  People once deeply connected to our congregation and to me leave.  Showers become storms.  Friendships silently wane, weaken, and teeter on the edge of ruination.  I make mistakes, owning all of the fault.  An infectious dissatisfaction invades the congregation I am devoted to.  Wailing winds blow torrential streams in horizontal rainfall while the bleak, black clouds surround.  And at first it doesn't seem that I am being smothered.  Instead I am embraced.  And I embrace the clouds.

This storm eventually becomes poisonous when the whisper of the gale tells me I'm no good, nothing will work, there's no hope.  And I believe it.  Then every effort and every attempt is infected with depression: infected and doomed.

I am well, sun-bathed, and hearty.  I can now share the story of my storm.  Some of you have sent me messages expressing parts of your own story of depression.  Some of you, like me, are in roles of Christian leadership and have felt 'required' to suffer your storm in silent solitude.  I hope that in some small measure my story breaks the bondage of that loneliness, frees you to feel God's generous love, and connects you to the smile He smiles over you.  Love rejoices in the truth and these small installments are the unfolding truth of my experience.  Rejoice!  The truth sets us free.  Free from shame and loneliness.  If you have never been through depression, be patient.  The story may seem to unfold too slowly for you, but it would be unfair to those of us who have lived through stories like this one to tell this one as if it were a 20-minute sitcom, with all of its plot complications settled in a single episode.  Smile.  Smile because God is in the valley of the shadow of death with His rod and staff to comfort.  He is following us with goodness and mercy.  And on the other side of that valley, the sun shines brightly in fields of grass, soaking us through with warmth and peace, hope and freedom.

1 comments:

Anonymous March 4, 2011 at 5:10 PM  

But you're such a good story teller!!! I don't wanna wait! I can tell it's going to be worth it though. :D - Dusti Jones

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