Random Dissonance 4: Cruel Skies - the heart of the depression

Who knew that at London's latitude the sunlight would shine well past 9PM in the Summertime?  I went back to my hotel room to unwind.  It was a sweet little room in a reasonably priced boutique hotel just off of Hyde Park and close to Kensington Palace.  But regardless of the agreeable accommodations, I could not be comforted.  So at just before 9 o'clock, under a brlightly lit sky, I set out on a walk.  I headed to the park at a aggressive pace. Entering the park two blocks away and determined to maintain my gait, I walked on the first found path heading for what appeared to be the center of the park.  I don't know if I was looking for some kind of distraction to relieve my mind, if I was trying to produce enough endorphins to combat the tension that seized my every muscle, or if I just wanted to escape into the land of fairy tales and 'happily ever after.'  I must admit that London is a wonder-filled place in which to dream of disappearing. 
I walked and walked until I ran into the Serpentine (it's a lake), which forced me to exit the park onto the public sidewalk on the opposite side of the park.  I glanced at my watch at a quarter before 10.  Dusk was finally swallowing the daylight into shadow, and never letting up on my determined pace, I decided I might be safer in that metropolitan area to walk along the busy roadways that surrounded the park than I would be walking through a lightless public woodland that once served as private royal hunting grounds.  And I was soon to discover that Hyde Park is ENORMOUS.  Walking the circumference of the park I made it back to my hotel sometime near 11:00 and went to my moderately appointed room, through narrow halls and around obtuse turns that clumsily joined 3 former row houses, built for the fashionably wealthy English aristocrats of a bygone century.  I laid down without a shower and went rapidly to sleep.   I had not found peace for my tortured mind and broken heart, but had physically worn my nearly rehabilitated body plumb out.  (I had caught a vicious stomach virus in Africa and spent devastating hours the previous day nauseous and achy on an airplane.)
While the long-lit skies of London shone with lustrous indigo on a cloudless evening, the skies of my spirit, which had been churning with scattered showers for some time, turned cruel.  The once scattered showers found the glue to bond them together into the perfect storm.  That glue was sorrow.  A pattern of lost friendships that taunted my mind and choked my heart, blackened the light in my soul with deep mourning.  Alone, the loss of any  friendship is painful and regrettable, and should cause anyone to reflect deeply.  Friendship loss is part of life: survivable, healable, and painful in a way that reminds me of a deep tissue injection - potentially helpful but never enjoyable.  Pastors however, are supposed to take this loss with grace, resonance, and sage-like repose.  When someone we love, no matter how deeply, decides to leave a church we love no less deeply, we are expected to show adequate sadness, strewn with heart-felt compassion, restrained with gothic hero like faith.
The newest broken friendship spun indigo skies into a tempest that, if in the sea, could suck a hearty vessel into its vortex without a ripple in the stormy waves.  Soaked to the bone from a few years of somewhat self-imposed pressure to be successful in planting a church, the fatigue resultant from a malaligned self-perception, fear - cold and disabling - which had been born in a perception of friendships losing momentum and depth, and from a waning spiritual life, spawned a gale-force wind.  A blast that thrust together a weakness of mind, soul, and body, creating the perfect conditions for a devastating emotional typhoon.
I am primarily a relational person.  Others may be known as athletic, musical, political, mechanical, technological, artistic, charismatic, industrious, smart, crafty, jocular (that’s one of my favorite words...), or an array of other descriptions which come from a skill set based on personal values.  However, I have always been a relationship person.  Though I have dallied with attempts to distinguish myself through other ventures, I have always considered my core personality type to be relational.  I even took a bit of pride in being a “good” friend.  That self-definition created in me a kind of magnetic compass point which usually gives me clarity in the midst of rain showers and storms.
Some people have the ability to separate church and friendship. While I have friends with whom I share church and friends with whom I do not, experience has taught me that friendship is rarely (and by rarely I mean only once) ever maintained after someone departs from a congregation in which I pastor.  Oh, I have tried - sent out correspondence, called to have coffee, and the like.  But it turns out that it makes people uncomfortable to talk to the pastor of a church they once attended.  So, someone leaving the congregation that I pastor is a lightning strike at the core of my self - every time.  I love both friend and church.  And, I link both.  
I have heard that someone is leaving the church that I pastor on the heels of a proclamation of commitment.  In a recent case, over months and months I had been reassured through many situations that my friends were deeply committed to our church and to me and that they weren’t going to forsake either.  (Notice how even friends who are not pastors link the church to their firendship with the pastor,)  Then a call out of the blue. [lightning peel]   In another case just 9 days before the call, a determined statement “we are not leaving because God put us here.”  Or more typically, “I’m just so glad that I’m at this church, I don’t know what I would do without you all...” Phone call.  [lightning peel] During the dreadfully dark storm of depression, any and all compliments took on the fearful characteristic of a threat.  It seemed that any kind words were a preamble to a departure and loss of friendship.  And No matter how good my pastor face, I’m sure my cool, protected response pushed people away and added turmoil to the tempest.
Inside the cruel sky screamed at me in thunder rolls, “you don’t really have friends,”  “you’re a bad friend,”  “your only a pastor to them - and you better produce,”  “you’re not a good friend and you’re not a good pastor,”  “whatever you do is destined to fail because you are aren’t good at either thing.”  The deafening sound of thunderous self-critique struck new blows like a 1 - 2 punch to the gut followed with an upper-cut.  Round after round, month after month the fight drug on.  The losing fight drug on, punctuated with hopeful days of clear-skied fighting back, until God’s miraculous intervention brought skies of cobalt again to rule the days.
News of lost friendship in the form of church transition struck me hard in the heart of Britain.  And while daylight holds off the dark of night long in Her Majesty’s realm, darkness swept in swiftly for me that un-foggy day in London towne - just past 1 year after the deadly blog post.


Chris March 18, 2011 at 1:41 PM  

I think that you are a great friend and pastor.
Love you man.

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