Down the Rabbit Hole

JewelIt’s 1 AM, and I have a 9.30 AM class. By all rights, I should be asleep right now, regaining my strength for the morning. So why am I instead sitting here in front of a dimmed computer screen, quietly but desperately hammering keys on my laptop keyboard in an attempt to write something coherent?

It’s the start of a new school year. The university has filled up with students, both young, wide-eyed, enthusiastic freshmen and sophomores bustling back and forth from class to chapel to lunch to class, and older, more experienced, jaded juniors and seniors sauntering across campus from one required location to the next. I’m an extrovert by nature, which means that all of this human energy should be propelling me forward with abundant drive. So why did I collapse into my chair earlier this evening, unable to do any of the tasks that really need to get done, lacking the energy and willpower to get back up and set things to rights?

It’s not hard for me to find friends to talk to right now. Some of my oldest and most confidential of friends are only a couple clicks and keystrokes away from my fingertips. Many of my current set of on-campus friends are busy but still willing to take a few hours on short notice to talk about important, deep issues. And I’ve made a couple new friends among the new freshman class already, friends I know I can be open with. So why do I feel lonely and walled in away from everyone right now?

There are so many questions I could ask to point out the discrepancies between what should be and what is right now. My energy is gone. My drive is unreliable. My ability to sleep is wrecked. My ability to connect with others is constantly flickering between ON and OFF. I can’t sleep and I can’t stay awake. I can’t stop thinking about certain topics, even though they are the topics I hate most. I can’t stop pushing myself forward, and I can’t hold up under my own pressure. In short, right now I am even more a bundle of contradictions than usual.

I have many friends who will recognize exactly what I am talking about. Friends whom I have been given the grace to be there for in their hours of pain and uncertainty. In hours of prayer and tears and wrestling with God.

Anyone who knows me well, or who has been following this blog, knows that I have been, from the beginning, deeply averse to accepting or admitting that I am struggling with depression. There is still a part of me that rebels against the idea. But the evidence has been growing, and I cannot ignore it any longer. As my vision of the world around me becomes more and more distorted by thoughts and feelings I cannot control, I am retaining enough clarity to finally admit that the world is no longer clear to me.

So what am I going to do? Primarily, I am going to fight to give my trials into God’s care and to not give up on continuing to pursue Him. A friend recently reminded me that as long as I maintain my focus on God, and not on myself, I will be able to continue pushing through and to continue being there for the people I care most about.

And I’m going to trust my friends to provide a safety net for me when I inexorably stumble and fall down. I don’t have any illusions deceiving me into thinking that the road ahead will be easy. I’ve seen depression at work. I know the ugly things it does to people. And I know that there will come days when I feel like I’m at the bottom, only to have, the next day, the bottom shift and fall out from underneath me and send me downwards yet again. But I have friends who are committed to being there for me in the way that I have been able to be there for them before.

Am I ready? No. I don’t think anyone ever really is ready for depression. But at least I’m not unprepared. God has set both me and my friends up for some great things, and my journey through these next few years will be someday a story worth telling, in this short period of life perhaps and definitely in the eternity we have waiting ahead of us.

Shards

A chapter of life that has lasted for three years is about to close, and a new one is about to start. This is a poem whose last two lines crashed into my mind tonight . . . and sums up how I feel about this simultaneous end and beginning.

Shards

My friend, we are starting the next stage of life.
Our parting is heartfelt; pain cuts like a knife.
Tears fill both our eyes as we say our goodbyes.

As we hug one last time, now look at my heart;
See, it has been broken, it is missing a part.
I know where I placed it, for that was my choice.

So as you step forward, following God’s guiding light,
I beg you, walk carefully, with your hands clasped tight,
For you carry that shard of my heart in your grasp.

Remember

team avatarThis is a poem I wrote back in October 2013 about the nature of a well-developed friendship. Although we often speak of friendship as “having each other’s backs,” in a lot of ways a true friendship involves “having each other’s fronts”: taking and softening the blows that life deals to each of us, and sharing the pain and the joy so that no one has to bear on his or her own the weight of the darkness and the weight of the light.

Remember

Remember those days, those days of yore,
Those days of triumph and of trial?
Faced we the enemy; we fell and rose,
Conquering all with a unified mind.

Oh, those days and those years, so full of memories!
We stand upright, now, tho’ covered in scars.
Our weapons they rest in the coveted places,
Memorials grim of the darkness we’ve faced.

But, friend, where’s your shield? I see here your sword,
Your horn, and your arrows–but nowhere your armor.
Look at these scars on my hands and my heart.
It was I who then shielded you, I who protected.

Forget not those bygone days, dangers, and toils,
Lest these my love-rich wounds be all in vain.
Keep to the path, and I will yet support you.
All I ask, my dear friend, is us two together again.

1 Corinthians 13

burning roseEveryone has a deep, indwelling need for something. For some, it might be finding companionship. For some, it might be seeking purpose. For some, it might be desiring calling. For some, it might be wanting healing. Whatever it is, each and every person on this earth has a need that they may or may not know about.

Sometimes we feel like we can easily help fulfill that need, by simply being a friend who helps out and checks on someone every now and then. But sometimes it’s harder–sometimes seemingly impossible–to do anything that seems to come anywhere close to helping.

In those times, it’s often easy to simply say, “God is all you need.” “Let go and let God.” “Just make God your everything.” “God will take care of it.” Words that, while ultimately the true solutions to every problem we might face, are sometimes little more than a quick cop-out way to avoid having to join in the crusade to fight the exhausting fight. I’ve had those words said to me at times when what I really needed at that moment was someone to come alongside me and be there to constantly push me forward and strengthen me. God has worked all of those situations out according to His will, of course, but I can’t help thinking that those words, however well meant they may have been, were not the best solution to my problems. To be honest, I never want to hear someone say those words to me again, though I’m sure they will be spoken to me many a time in the future.

If those statements about God being all we need are ultimately true, why do I complain? I complain because I believe God calls us to be a body for a reason. If God were truly everything we needed, and if it were that easy to depend on Him for everything, then there would be no reason for God to require corporate worship and fellowship from us. If God were the only thing we ever needed, then John Donne’s quote of “No man is an island” would be utterly false. For me, the reason God placed us together and calls us to cooperate and act together is that He made us so we need each other as well as Him. Genesis 2, I think, points towards this, for if God was all Adam needed, then there was no reason for Eve to have been created. As humans, we are supposed to interact with each other and be there for each other, however little we may feel like it at the time. Because God made us that way.

The obvious counter to this claim of mine is that God did all of this because it’s “for His glory.” Yes, that’s partly true. But I think it’s only a small part of the truth–an infinite truth definitely, but proportionately a small part of that infinity. Telling those who are struggling “God is all you need” doesn’t help if they desperately need someone to be there physically for them. It is easy enough to cry out to God, but it is sometimes hard to hear His response, and sometimes He chooses not to respond directly at all, instead leaving it up to time or to people to give us His answer. God didn’t have to make mankind into two (Adam and Eve) to multiply and occupy the whole earth. He didn’t have to let us choose the Fall and start a process of redemption that would lead to the death (and resurrection) of God Himself. God never has to do any of the complex guiding and interventions that He does in our lives. He would be infinitely glorified just from the creation of perfect Adam into perfect Earth unbared to evil and destruction. Saying that “God’s doing it for His glory” when people are undergoing trials isn’t glorifying God if we don’t follow the example He set and step in to aid each other.

So next time you feel like saying, “Just let go and let God,” or “God is all you need,” to someone who is struggling inside, stop and think. Is it really what he or she needs to hear right now? Or is what needs to be said the words “Let me fight this alongside you–let me help you deal with this”? Don’t just offer a Christian-flavored platitude and walk away. Be willing to offer yourself wholly for the crusade that God is calling each and every one of us to fight in–and be ready to leap into someone’s struggles and to get your spiritual hands bloodied fighting Satan in the name of Almighty God.