Friday, January 9, 2009

from the archives: this weight I'm carrying

This was written three months into this blog, when the pressure of posting every day, the expectation I was feeling from others to keep writing, and the unfamiliar sensation of exposing my inner thoughts and feelings to others, was starting to tell.

I've been feeling down recently.

I'm on my morning walk. I have dragged my feet to this rock, and am sitting here writing this in a tiny notebook, next to a lake with a rippled blue surface and visiting wood ducks and herons. The beauty is the furthest thing from my mind: it doesn't even touch the way I'm feeling.

I hesitate to call this feeling "depression" because I know clinical depression is far worse than this. I can get out of bed in the morning. I am aware of the cool breeze on my face, and the soft, deep blue of today's sky - although, like inadequate pain medication, they only take the edge off. When I pray, I can feel God's nearness - the skies haven't turned to brass, and my prayers don't feel like they're echoing off an empty heaven.

But my insides feel like a medicine ball which I am doomed to carry around with me. A wide band of over-tight elastic seems to press around my chest. I find it difficult to breathe - in, out, in, out, each breath meets the resistance of the weight I'm carrying.

I can identify some of the reasons for what I'm feeling. I'm over-tired and over-wrought after months of blogging, writing, dreaming, planning and raising 4 children. I've repented (repeatedly) of people-pleasing, of trying to live up to others' expectations and hopes for me, of the over-conscientiousness and perfectionism which will make me read what I'm writing 10 times before I post it.

But the weight remains, heavy and suffocating.

I know this is normal. While only (only!) 5-8% of people will experience clinical depression in their lifetime, the kind which often requires medical treatment, most of us will experience this heaviness from time to time.

It's part of life, a normal reaction to stress, loss, tiredness. It comes and goes: sometimes it's with us for an hour, sometimes for a week. Sometimes it persists for months on end, like the mild post-natal depression after my second baby, when I cried for an hour every afternoon and barely made it through each day.

I know Jesus probably felt like this too. If it's part of the normal human condition - this sadness, this melancholy, this heaviness - then he experienced it with us. He stayed up nights praying desperately for his Father's comfort and direction. He felt every temptation as we do - the idolatry of human need, the pull of expectation, the siren-call of human praise. He dragged his feet through days of tiredness and discouragement.

Somehow, the fact that my Lord in heaven knows exactly how I feel is intensely comforting.

And now I will drag my feet home again. As I open the door, all 4 children will probably have a fight to settle, a hurt to comfort, or a need to fill. There's cooking to be done, piano lessons to be given, family Bible time to sit through (sorry - I mean enjoy). I will do these things as cheerfully as I can, because it's my job and I love my family. I know from experience that I may feel some small comfort in the hard labour.

I will keep forcing myself through the motions of love and responsibility until the day - maybe tomorrow, maybe in a month - when happiness becomes a normal state again, rather than a fragile surface like thin ice, which I press on gingerly to see if it will give way.

I will go on knowing that Jesus went on, that he battled exhaustion and despair, that he put one step in front of the other, spoke one more word to the demanding crowds, escaped in a boat and found the crowds still waiting, called out to his Father on a night lonely with cold stars, went back and kept on loving. All in the knowledge that the day would come when he would plumb the ultimate depths of sadness and endure his Father's abandonment on the cross for our sake.

Meanwhile, I will try not to treat my children's demands as interruptions, or this sadness as a burden, for sadness is God's blessed gift to grow me in love, patience, trust and hope. Sadness is not something to be rejected, but something to be embraced, for in its fire my faith grows stronger and I become more like my Lord.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:14-16


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