I struggle to get to church most Sundays. Though 11 a.m. isn't exactly early morning, it's not my best time of day. But it's more than that -- I expend so much energy towards squelching frightening feelings of depression that it's frightening to think about opening up to God. My reactions to the flowing of the spirit are unpredictable, and what I strive for when I'm depressed is a kind of manageable sameness.
This sameness hurts to maintain. I'm tense and tight and afraid of each next moment. I may push myself from one thing to another, but mostly I'm wondering when I get to stop. Stop as in go to bed and end my day, but also just STOP. I struggle to imagine how I might continue like I am for much longer. It's not a suicide wish, but more of a, I wouldn't mind if I could finally give up and not have to try so hard. I've been in this particular wave of depression/physical illness for over two months now. I'm running out of stamina.
In today's sermon, Pastor Gayle preached about the fire of Methodism, and asked, repeatedly and effectively, if the fire had gone out. I understood the fire as passionate engagement with faith and with the world. I kept picturing my fire as smothering under damp clothes, gasping for air. I believe I am in a time of brokenness, and that in all times of brokenness, there is a possibility of radical rebirth. That's what I want from this time, not some weak return to the status quo, which wasn't all that great to begin with. In my current state of being, I have had no choice but to become very clear that my survival depends on reaching out to others and being willing to ask for help. I've also experienced a renewed commitment to my creative goals, and a very clear knowing that I have no choice but to write -- or create -- from exactly where I am (considering emotional states as a place) in the present moment.
I've also received a renewed faith in the present moment, for two reasons. One, the present moment is all I can freaking manage. Thinking ahead to the next moment can be terrifying, and I inevitably predict failure. I've also begun to give myself a lot of credit for small things, like taking a shower, getting to a cafe to get some work done, calling a friend, or showing up to meet a friend for lunch. I tend to give myself credit for NOTHING, not even significantly larger accomplishments, so this marking of small things is good practice.
All that said, I've had several harrowing days in a row, where transitions from one thing to the next have involved periods of crying in my car, unsure of what to do next, and afraid of slipping and falling into despair. I went to a church event yesterday (Saturday) and as I left, people kept saying, "see you tomorrow" and I kept thinking, what is tomorrow? And of course, tomorrow was church. Right. I knew that.
So I really wanted to show up at church, and not just show up, but hang around afterwords and get and give a few hugs. This behavior is new, as I ususally slip in and out so as not to be noticed by the nice people who would actually show pleasure in my presence. And so I arrived twenty minutes late, just in time for the sermon, which I mentioned above. It was a communion Sunday, which always gets to me for some reason. And then our lay leader Sharon prayed for me as I kneeled at the altar.
There was something about the way she prayed -- fiercely, with our hands clenched together -- that built on the words of the sermon and allowed them to seep beneath my skin. I remember her asking that the fire of God might shine within me and without and that I might share my light with others. But it was the experience of the prayer, even more than the words.
I have been holding my breath for days. You know how people will tell you to take deep relaxing breaths and all that does is make you gasp a little bit harder? These soft, full breaths came of their own accord, and I received a glimpse of how I might feel if I stopped choking on the smoke of a smothered fire and instead, allowed in enough air for a sweet, small flame.
I'm not up to any ravaging, cleansing flames right now; even a flickering candle is enough.