~ John 11:35
I have been on a journey. Yesterday while sharing with my therapist, I told her that I have decided to make my depression a, "sacred journey." I'm not sure what prompted this. Perhaps it is because I find it easier to talk about my depression in the context that somehow God is still present, while realizing the darkness of this valley, and how I need to know that the shadow I cast is because there still exists a small flicker of light in the distance.
Perhaps I consider this journey as, "sacred," because I realize that something "within me," is changing. Often I look to these changes as God once again creating something new in my life.
I think of the most faithful of followers in scripture, and even consider Jesus' own words, asking for a cup to pass from me. But this cup I am drinking from currently still sits before me and seems to be waiting.
I've tried to think about what has happened to bring me to where I am now.
There are many things. The pandemic is revealing much about who and what we are as a society. The number of people who now say that they are grieving some kind of loss has increased beyond measure. Our work, family, and life in general has suddenly been altered into something that we were never taught or prepared to encounter.
Recently seeing a picture of my mother, a woman I have not seen or spoken to in over a decade, reminded me of a loss, surrounded by years of addiction, and a painful journey that sometimes leads to distance and time without words, or understanding.
Perhaps it is the ongoing pain that I experience in the homes of hospice families that cannot plan for funerals, or experience the bedside visit of a family member that has not been able to travel due to the virus, leaving a final conversation, smile, or hug to a cell phone that now is held close to the ear of a loved one as they make their final transition.
I know that the battle between friends over politics, why black lives matter, and how those who are not marginalized live each day in a society that presents no challenges because of the color of their skin.
Maybe it's the struggle that I feel when I don't know what to say, or to do, when my black spouse hears another verdict, watches another black life senselessly murdered publicly and then displayed on every news outlet. I seek to understand what is sacred, or holy, about these moments, and how they effect my own well-being. My spouse lives each day being reminded of his blackness, while my own father ends a text message, "All lives matter," failing to realize the privilege that he has always known.
I know that I cried when it was announced that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died, while looking at my hand, realizing the wedding ring that I wear is due to her persistence and understanding of law, and how love cannot always be defined. I remembered the day that I said, "I do," on the National Lawn in Washington D. C. before these words could be said across our country, and because we are a land of laws, I understand how laws can change. I am reminded daily that the, "Good old days," for many, were more like the, "Dark Ages," for others.
A few weeks ago when my therapist asked, "Do I need to worry about you?" I realized the long pause before I could find the courage to tell her, "Yes."
I felt as if I had taken the first step off the "invisible cliff," that I had created for myself, and that somehow the sacredness of the journey had been surrendered. So, I withdrew.
I have always been a person who finds comfort in the words that I write, but in these days, I couldn't write what I was feeling because so often, I see my words as something that inspires, brings about change, or causes those who read them to consider what I am sharing. I thought that writing down my words would somehow overshadow what hope I still possessed, and that my words then would serve as a map to lead me deeper into an abyss that has no bottom. And so, I have waiting until now, when I feel strong enough to tread the water above the darkness, while realizing that I must be gentle, and remind myself that if I simply lay back, I can float without effort when I become tired.
Tears are something that I encounter daily in my life. Whether they are mine, or those shared by someone else. In ancient times, mourners would place their tears in a lachrymatory, and leave them in the tombs of those who died as a reminder of the pain they felt when they lost someone they loved. I have thought about what my lachrymatory vessel would look like about now. As I shared with my therapist, "I am afraid at this point that if I started to cry, I would not be able to stop."
For me, my lachrymatory would be the vessel that could not hold the tears that I need to cry.
Last week I preached on Paul's words to the people of Philippi, when he shared, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) As I prepared my sermon, I realized the words of a man who would welcome death, but would be satisfied to continue to live, even in his struggles, for the sake of others. I understood his mindset, having considered my own circumstances, and my own, comfortable relationship with mortality. So often I hear people tell me that they are not afraid of death, they are afraid of dying. I don't think I am afraid of either.
This sacred journey of depression has been filled with many moments. It is impossible to define the "what," or the "why," but to realize that the "box" where I have placed so much of these things, still sits, like the cup, in front of me. It has taken for some of what I am encountering, years to finally work its way to the top of that box. I am reminded that not all lives end with complete closure, and that for some, that completeness is not necessary. I think I am becoming one of those people.
When Micah asks, "What does the Lord require of you?" I have to stop, take a breath, and remind myself that I am to, "To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Your God." (Micah 6:8) Or in my case at this time, "to stop, rest, and let God simply be with me on this sacred journey."
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2020
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.