I have written about depression before but am making no apologies for doing so again. I am currently struggling to get out from under tha Black Dog who was subtley but surely creeping up on me through the Christmas season and has now planted himself firmly on my lap, (in fact I think he is sitting on my chest) and refusing to move.
The Black Dog is a strange companion, he seems to like the winter months especially when they include grey days and long dark nights, he brings with him a dose of lethargy and greyness that is hard to overcome. A greyness that settles in my heart and mind and is difficult to break. I know the things I need to do, exercise, healthy eating, thrying to get out even into the grey days, but it is hard.
On the surface it is easy to say that he should not be visiting me at this time, I have just made a decision about my future and certainly have much to look forward to. I love the work I am called to, and gain a real sense of life and meaning from it. I come to life when I am leading worship and through the deep God-filled conversations that I am privileged to have, but that does not mean that the Black Dog is absent.
The Black Dog is tricky, he can be called to heel for a while, and waits obediently when I step into the light, but while I certainly don’t call him or give him any encouragement when I stop he creeps back onto my lap, puts his paws on my chest and looks me full in the face.
He has visited me like this before, and I know that eventually he will get fed up and leave, already I sense a change in his visit, I could not have written this a week ago, he would have got in the way! Right now I am summoning up the energy to go into town to pick up a couple of things that I need for tomorrow, I have already managed to clear out a corner of the kitchen where I tend to store all sorts of papers and general “stuff” most of which is now headed for the recycling bin! I have read and prayed, written in my journal and I consider these things accomplishments. Tomorrow I have 3 services to lead and that will be OK, because I know I will be leaning on a strength that is not my own.
So for now I am looking for life where there is life, in the stirrings of my heart and the turn of the seasons. I am listening for the unforced rhythms of grace that are always present though sometimes hardly perceptible, and I will dare as Frederick Buechner encourages us to “listen to my life”. In listening I find wisdom and I find the God in whose image I am made, by trying to be something that I am not I hide from all of that, hide from the possibilities that God might be birthing in me even through the visit of the Black Dog.
Over the last few weeks I have been to or been leading Methodist Covenant Services, in these we not only acknowledge that we belong to God, but that we belong to God in ALL things. I am no less an Christian because the Black Dog has chosen to visit me, I am simply on the laid low, empty and suffering side of the prayer, a side that yields unexpected treasurers of its own, not least in forcing me to simply accept myself as I am, an d to know that as I am I am loved completely by the God who revealed so perfectly in Jesus that he holds nothing back.
Tomorrow I will use the worship song “Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me” to lead into a time of prayer, and it occurs to me that maybe I am simply being broken, melted and remoulded in order to be re-filled, and that, that is not a simple of easy process. The Black Dog is with me for a while, but he is not stronger than the Spirit of God who is with me and in me at all times, and slowly but surely I am learning to bear patiently with myself…
The likelihood is that if you see me tomorrow I will, as I often am, be smiling, it is not a mask or a lie, it is real, but that does not mean that all is well, simply that I know that it will be!