I am sitting at the computer with my third large mug of tea this morning and trying to stop myself from beating myself up, for the last week or so I have been suffering from a cold which is refusing to shift. I have visited the Doctor for that and because I am struggling with a much unwanted visit from the Black Dog of depression, he has told me to be gentle with myself and to give myself time to heal, the cough is probably a physical reaction to stress as much as anything else. So I am trying to be gentle with myself, but I want to go swimming ( I am paying for gym membership), I want to get on with things, and I want to regain some form of normality in my life which has been turned upside down over the last year, and because I want all of this I have a tendency to speak to myself harshly, a kind of pull your socks up type speech...
The trouble with me telling myself to pull my socks up and get on with it is that I can only sustain that type of behaviour for short periods of time, and it involves wearing a mask that declares to the world that I am coping with stuff even when I am not and tears lurk just below the surface. In the midst of everything I have to come to the truth that coping is not being strong and tears are not a sign of weakness, nor are they a sign of self pity. My life has been turned upside down and it will take time to take stock and to re-orientate myself within it.
To re-orientate myself means that I need time, time, time to re-consider, time to let go and to forgive, maybe especially when it comes to forgiving myself, I truly believe that the depression for me is part of this, and it is through this that I discover the wonder of the truth that God is always with me, the reminder of this from Psalm 139 is a huge comfort:
How can I get away from your Spirit?
Where can I go to escape from you?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there.
If I lie down in the deepest parts of the earth, you are also there.
Suppose I were to rise with the sun in the east
and then cross over to the west where it sinks into the ocean.
Your hand would always be there to guide me.
Your right hand would still be holding me close.
( vs: 7-10)
To deny that I find myself in the depths at this moment would be to deny that God is the one who is holding me close, and in denying that I would loose the possibility of any form of healthy re-orientation. This quote from Brennan Manning's Ragamuffin Gospels has got me thinking:
"The mature Christians I have met along the way are those who have failed and have learned to live gracefully with their failure. Faithfulness requires the courage to risk everything on Jesus, the willingness to keep growing, and the readiness to risk failure throughout our lives." - Brennan Manning
... and it has got me wondering, because when we face our failures and name them for what we are we might just find that we are also facing our gifts and strengths, and in doing so perhaps we will encounter the God who helps us to love ourselves enough to forgive and let go of the former in order to embrace and rebuild with the later. Facing failure and embracing the possibility that it brings us a gift of new possibilities is risky, it involves dying to self rather than covering up, but through it the possibility of resurrection beckons, for acknowledging failure means coming afresh to the cross that has made that resurrection possible.
So often we speak of the cross in terms of victory and fail to acknowledge the depths of Gethsemane before it and the pain of the Saturday that followed, where both Jesus and his followers grappled with total loss, rejection and failure, yet it was from this loss that the world changing resurrection power was released in Christ. It was not instantaneous though, there was a time of waiting, and in a sense that waiting is the place that we live in today, waiting between the now and the not quite yet, identifying with the groaning and longings of all creation for release and completion.
So today I am choosing to drop the mask of coping and choose to be gentle with myself, if you ask me how I am I might tell you so be warned, I won't go into detail but I will tell you that I am struggling with life, but that I am holding on to the God who is holding me and that I know that all will be well in the end.
For the truth is, he sees and knows me as I am and loves me, before now I would have qualified that statement with the word "anyway", but that would imply that a part of me is unlovable, and the mystery of the power and depth of the love of God is that there is nothing in me that is unlovable, I am fearfully and wonderfully made in his image, and the darkness in me will not put his light out, and all will be made new.