I don’t know if any time is an easy time for a person who is clinically depressed. As one of those people who has bouts with depression, over the long-haul, I’m in and out. Not just one day depressed and the next not. It creeps up on me and engulfs my life for months at a time before gradually loosening its grip and releasing me. And for someone like me, this is a scary time.
I am physically struggling with a condition that affects my stamina. It finally has a name, after many years of referring to it as my mystery disease. That name is fibromyalgia. Often, I find that my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. It’s important that I function, because people depend upon me, and I manage to do that, but there are times when I worry that they need more than I have to give. And it takes everything I’ve got to keep moving. After I spend all my energy on my work as a pastor, my spare time is devoted to recuperating. As a result, my pastor life is the only life I have these days, and as much as I love my work, I need to have a life. My lack of a life is starting to feel oppressive to me.
Then I’ve got life-sucking stuff going on that any pastor of a mainline church can probably relate to in 2018. I am surrounded by people who are grieving loss. And I’m not just talking about the loved ones who grieve at the funerals I’m doing these days, which is far greater than I have ever experienced in my life. I’m talking about people who are grieving and don’t even realize it—grieving the loss of a way of life within an institution that, in the way they have always known it, is slipping through their fingers. I have faith that new life will arise from the corpse, but the actual dying part is brutal. It’s hard to stay afloat above the grief that is constantly sucking me under. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe.
If I’m honest, I have to mention my getting-old struggles… something I don’t like to talk about it. As I approach the age my mother was when she died, I keep wondering how it’s all going to go down for me. Lately, I find myself waking up in the morning obsessed with some past wrong I have endured or inflicted upon others. Do I need to do an archeological dig of my life, knowing there are a lot of layers of sorrow and shame and anger I will be sure to uncover? Ugh. Part of me feels compelled to go there, and part of me wants to leave the dirt undisturbed and in place. It’s who I am, and I feel a need to be okay with that, if not for me, then for the people who relate to me. Am I the only older person who feels this way? I wonder if the joy-filled old people I spend time with are just putting on an act so that the rest of us can stand to be around them. (Come to think of it, that may be true for a lot of us, not just old people.)
The greatest joy in my life is my two grandsons, Nick and Justin. But even that joy is tinged with sorrow for me. When I watch the preschool children file past me in the hallways at church, it’s all I can do to keep from weeping. Students everywhere, including preschoolers, are spending time learning how to avoid being shot when an intruder with a gun comes into their school. The clock on climate change is ticking more rapidly every day, while those who could make a significant difference scoff at science. Fear-of the-other is used as a weapon to bolster the power of the already-powerful on a global scale. Ignorance, cruelty and immorality seem to be in fashion. It’s too much. And all I can think about are my two dear grandsons and all the other children who had the misfortune of being born into this screwed-up mess-of-a-world.
If you follow my blog, you may have noticed that I haven’t been writing a lot lately. That’s because I have suspected that what I have to say right now, no one else wants to hear. If you’re still reading, you may agree. With the little I have shared with you, many of you will want to fix me and tell me that everything is going to be all right. Please don’t. I understand your need to do that, but it doesn’t help me to hear it.
I will confess that I’ve always been a glass-half-empty kind of person. But lately the glass seems to be less than half-empty, and I can’t help but think that anyone who insists otherwise isn’t paying attention.
If I couldn’t trust that God is loving and good, and somehow God is at work in the world, usually through us and sometimes despite us, I don’t know how I could get through these days. I suspect I’m not alone and I share this with you because, if you find yourself in a similar place, I want you to know that you’re not alone, either. There’s not something seriously wrong with you if you are disturbed by the fact that there’s something seriously wrong.