Monday, December 11, 2017

Upheld (depression, again)

Let me tell you about a girl I know.
She has eyes that see the brokenness of this world and a heart that deeply hates what she sees.  She is burdened, maybe even suffocating with the grief she carries.  She wants to make it better, and she tries to, but her efforts don’t seem to make a dent in anything.  And what bothers her even more than being ineffective is that often, sometimes even as she works to right the broken parts of this world, she finds herself tripping over her own brokenness, her plans foiled by a mess that she made by her own self.

And her arms and legs and very heart are caught the web.  Any movement on her part is just wild flailing, but what else can she do?  She could give up in despair, try to sleep it off, and hope that she will wake refreshed and not with fang marks in her neck.  Flail or collapse, pointless activity or abject despair: these seem to be her only options.

This girl is me, when depression takes hold.  It hits me like a storm that comes suddenly and then passes over, It is ugly and dark and scary, but it is over (for now.)  And again, God has been faithful.  I am upheld.

I say that often to my close friends, when the question “how are you doing?” can’t be answered well in a word.

I am upheld.  What do I mean by that?

It’s complicated, this awful grace-filled life.  And when it’s not the time or the place to unburden my soul, to pour out the griefs and complaints, to recount the the faithfulness of God mixed in, to divulge the tangled mess of a heart that doesn’t even know what’s good for its own self and yet is still carried forward by her Father to be at this job or doing this mom thing despite all these glaring weaknesses… I say, I am upheld.

Sometimes, I am a house of cards and I’m sure one more thing will knock me right over, but I haven’t fallen yet.  Every moment that goes by, every push against my house that does NOT make me collapse feels like a miracle, reminds me that God is my helper, and I am upheld.

Sometimes it means: I have just found my way out of the pit and I don’t even know how it happened. My head is lifted up, there is some light in my eyes, and this isn’t my doing. God has again been faithful and sent relief, and yet I know my weakness afresh and its scary. But God is holding me (and He was when I couldn’t feel it, too), and so, I am upheld.

I am upheld: I crawled my way to church (on the inside) and Jesus met me there: He held me and covered me in his own robe, like a soft blanket, he fed me and restored me, He listened to my complaints, and I am upheld.

It is by pure grace that God holds me up, and oh how I need it.

I am re-reading one of my favorite books with my Sunday night book club, Grace upon Grace. And it occurs to me that I am STILL fighting some of the same battles with myself that I was fighting years ago when I read this book.  I am weary of my own weakness.  I want to graduate. I want to say that I WAS weak and loved, but now I am strong and loved and independant, too! I grow weary of being a beggar, of being reminded that I am utterly dependant on God for everything.  I wish I had just one solid mature independent area in my own self that I could count on to be stable and right and GOOD in my own strength. I’d sure feel more secure, or at least happier, that way.  But that is not the way of faith, the way of grace and trust and reliance on the gifts He gives.

Insead, we are invited to be upheld. We are invited to be children, and to be held.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 131)

I think of my son, who cries when he’s tired and takes comfort in being held. Tasks undone, questions unanswered do not bother him in the least: he is held, and so he rests.

This same posture is taken by one Benedictine sister retired from a university professorship on account of a debilitating illness who said, “For so many years, I was taught to ‘master’ subjects. But who can ‘master’ beauty, or peace or joy? This psalms speaks of the grace of childhood, not of being childish. One of my greatest freedoms is to see that all the pretenses and defenses I put up in the first part of my life, I can spend the rest of my life taking down. This psalm tells me that I’m a dependent person, and that it’s not demeaning.” (as quoted by Kathleen Norris, THe Cloister Walk p.106)

We have not outgrown childlike dependence on God. We have not graduated. But take heart! God does not demand that we graduate- He invites us to watch Him provide! He calls us as His children to trust in Him, to wait on Him in hope, to look to Him for provision.  We are his children, holding on to Him with our feeble grip, even as He holds us with the almighty strength of His love.

It is by pure grace that God holds us up, and oh, how we need it.

Be held, and upheld in Him today.

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