There have been recent days where I just start shaking from joy on the inside and can't stop smiling. I mean, I make a bonafide fool of myself talking to every lady picking over mangos and shallots at the grocery store, and the boy bagging my groceries looks at me side-ways when I go on and on about those hazel eyes. I ask the older man in the electric shopping chair, who can't quite stand up tall enough to reach the bag of salted movie popcorn, if I can help. He says yes, so we continue together up and down the aisles, both of us smiling. And it feels good, for the man who is shorter than he once was, and for this woman who is taller than she was a year ago.
Last year I was just coming out of Depression's grip. The hold had been firm because her fingers were many - Imbalanced hormones, adrenal fatigue, prolonged postpartum, parenting and marriage challenges I wasn't prepared to handle... all of it wrapped around my weary wrists like a vine with too many tendrils. I'd rip at one, but another was always growing up to take its place.
Today there are smiles. Smiles spilling out and collecting like puddles at my feet, where tears used to pool.
I don't believe in formulas or cure-alls, but I do believe in the power of healthy conversation, in testimonies, and in a kind, redeeming God who reaches down into the muddiest, muckiest messes, smack-dab in our soul sadness, and pulls us up and out. Yeah, I believe in that stuff. And Kleenex, plenty of Kleenex. And gooey brownies too.
How nice it would be to sit criss-cross applesauce with you, pillows all around, a box of kleenex to wipe away the tears when ugly-cries shake us something fierce, and brownies. Always brownies. But we can't do that, can we? Not really. So we gather here together, because a blog titled drew you in, and your heart said, "Yeah, I get sad, really sad sometimes."
And so, at the risk of sounding like I have any answers at all, let's simply try to make sense of it, and reach out of our individual dark struggles and into the light together. Or better yet, let us CALL OUT of the darkness; out of the darkness and into the Light.
For Crying Out Loud!
If I were into formulas, equations that stated methodically that a+b=c, always, every time, than I'd start here. Depression is confusing. It's so stinkin' confusing that we whimper soft and alone, rather than CRYING OUT LOUD. But, For Crying Out Loud, Soul-Sisters, crying out is just what He wants to hear from us. Loud and bold and believing, "God, save me from this mess, I'm drowning in these tears."
I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.… (Psalm 40:1-3)
This is the story of our Salvation. We were separated and desperate for saving, then in a moment we cried out, "God, I cannot do this alone." And that confession of faith in God's power was the key to unleashing His rescue plan for our lives. But here's the glorious truth we need in the darkest days this side of Heaven's hold... We still need saving. Here in this sin-drenched world we remain actively in need of His powerful, rescuing arm.
Jesus said, "I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly!" Those are two lives He came for; the life eternal and the life we're living-breathing now, full of abundant potential. So here's the confession: God, if you were strong enough to save me from sin's separation and give me eternal life... You are most definitely able to save me from the pit of despair and redeem the abundance I can't seem to find.
God's lifting hand often looks like the hands of real people all around us.
The sign above my therapist's door stated, "This is going to hurt before it gets better." And it did. It hurt to delve into the dark places and learn coping skills that had eluded me so long. It hurt something awful, but not as awful, I told myself, as continuing on in despair. So I reached over the plaid couch, and over the silk flowers, and grabbed hands with the counselor; and I reached over phone lines and grasped hold of friends who never gave up on me when all I did was cry out loud, and I reached for my husband in the dark and clung to him.
If you are deep in the mire, and in desperate need of lifting, then tilt your head toward heaven and raise your hands for help. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay... He is strong enough to save, able to lift, and often does it through the flesh and blood people in our midst.
When a mess becomes our message.
He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.…
I spent the first three sessions with the counselor just crying. I was embarrassed most of all that I couldn't stop myself. But she waited and nodded and kept extending her hand across the great divide. And when I was finally able to gulp down enough air to fill my broken lungs and exhale in a way that formed words, this is what I asked her: "I know where I'm going to end up on the other side of this, I just don't know how to get there. Won't you tell me what the next step is?"
She smiled hope and squeezed my hand, "No, I can't. All I know is that right now you're having a good cry. But you're right,you will get to the other side."
What she didn't say is that there on the other side is something more amazing than I ever imagined... Not only is it the complete, restored me standing there, it's my story, my testimony, my smile. It's the new song in my mouth. It's the hymn of praise to my God. And many are seeing me here, and have put their trust in the Lord.
I've heard it, how God takes our mess and makes it our message - how God takes our test and turns it on its ear, making it our testimony. But it's true. It's absolutely true! Press on, it's true!
I don't know what step you're on; Calling Out Loud, Grabbing Hold of Hands, Knee Deep in Tears, in the Process of Being Lifted, or Here on the Other Side, Testifying to the One who Saves... But the only part of the equation that is true for everyone of us who believes is what's at the end of the journey = A New Song.
Depression isn't always a Spiritual Condition - But the Answer is Pure Spirit.
For those of you still in the mud, the muck and the mire of depression, I want to tell you the hardest part of all for me. There was this tendency to feel like I was failing spiritually. "If only I was pressing into God, abiding, leaning in and praying more... then I wouldn't be so downcast. Then I would bear the fruit of JOY!" But sometimes there are medical, hormonal, neurological reasons so complex that our abiding selves still don't bear the fruit of God's Spirit this side of glory.
I could say, "I don't know," and that'd be the truth, but I think I might. I think the reason God let's His Holy people experience great soul depression, is so that they learn the passionate saving love that raises us to life again, the redeeming love that sets us on a firm foundation, that puts a new song in our mouths that becomes the anthem inspiring faith from those who have not yet heard.
I believe that The Spirit of God is mighty at work in the midst of a Christian's Depression.
I used to think that the happy life was the life blessed by God. But here I am, after taking all the steps I didn't know how to take there in the therapists office, and I see that the blessed life is the life that had to CRY OUT, the blessed life is the life that had to GRAB HOLD HARD, the best life was cultivated in the persevering faith of a hurting heart, the blessed life experienced the LIFTING, and the blessed life now TESTIFIES TO THE SAVING.
Ask me why I smile. I dare you to ask this broken woman, built back up and made whole again, why she smiles in the grocery store, in the pick-up line at her children's school, coming out of Sunday morning worship... Ask her why she smiles, ask her why she sings.