I am sitting today and reflecting, a year ago I was preparing to move, into the last few weeks of living in Blackpool which were filled with lovely affirmations of all kinds from friendships to ministry, and the joy of receiving some lovely young people into membership of the Methodist Church, baptising a very special young lady and conducting the wedding of friends. They were of course also tinged with regrets and sorrows, things left undone, things I wish I had done differently. I miss the lovely people of Blackpool, I miss the sea and the sunsets but still believe that moving was the right decision for me and for others.
It seems impossible that I have now been in Sheffield for just under 11 months, everything seems so new still, and yet so normal, I now no longer need a SAT NAV to embark on some journeys and am becoming more confident with taking short-cuts as I learn how the city connects up. I have even learned the art of driving on hills!
Those who know me, and those who might regularly read my blog will know that part of my life experience is that I suffer from and struggle with depression, this affects me in various ways, and one of those is that doing new things and meeting new people can be exhausting, I need to take things step by step, which means that I am rarely the life and soul of the party, and that sometimes I plan things and find that I simply cannot find the energy to carry them through. I may want to go to a party or to the theatre but when it comes to it the black dog wins! In this I have learned not to beat myself up which only makes things worse but to be gentle with myself and to take things one step and one event at a time.
Interestingly my work is rarely affected as I have a particular role to fulfill, and the Holy Spirit steps in and enables me to fulfill my calling, which is a real joy, and often a deep surprise to me as I find myself operating in another sphere. I love preaching, and things like leading funerals and one to one pastoral work can be a pure delight. Even stranger I find myself called to the work of an evangelist so meeting people outside of the church and engaging with issues of justice and social concern is a real passion of mine, once again more down to the Holy Spirit I think!
So why am I writing this? Well partly for myself but also to say that on the whole depression does not win, some days I overcome it, other days I live with it, and I can live with it because in all things I really do know that God is the strength in my weakness! Prayer teaches me to be gentle with myself, because in silence and in contemplation I learn more and more that I am loved and valued not for what I do or achieve but for who I am, I am loved simply for being me, a precious creation, made in the image of God, and becoming whole in Christ, what an amazing mystery that is! If I want my life to speak at all I want it to proclaim love and hope for all, no matter who you are, no matter what you might think excludes you from the love of Christ, you are loved!
As with all of us my journey is ongoing, which is why when people expect me to have been transformed into a confident non-depressive now that I have moved from Blackpool to Sheffield I have to say no this move has not cured me, I didn’t expect it to! I suffered from depression long before I moved to Blackpool and it continues to be a part of me. It may always be so, and it may not, I have good days and bad days, , we all do, don’t we, and it is in that and through the mix of days that I move onwards and upwards, or in the words of C.S. Lewis “further up and further in”, again for me prayer is key, if only the name of Jesus repeated until I find myself at a place where I can simply rest in the flow of life and love. Probably the most helpful thing I have read that helps me in this is Richard Rohr’s oft repeated assertion, “Life is not about you, you are about life!”
Placing myself into the life-flow and love of God lifts me beyond myself in a way nothing else can, but I have feet of clay, today is a bad day, and while I am not lying on the sofa or still in bed, I know that I need to be gentle with myself and give myself a bit of space to simply be, as such I am not allowing the ought tos or shoulds that have a habit of flying around my head win the day. I am taking some time to write, to do some gardening and to recharge my batteries, I may even take my camera for a walk later!
My favourite scripture remains the same:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11: 28-30 The Message)
Today the word unforced seems key, so I receive it as a gift, to live in the unforced rhythms of grace feels right and healing, so for those who ask whether the move to Sheffield has cured me, the answer is no, but I see it as a good and positive part of my journey and for that I am thankful, I am also thankful for my experience in Blackpool it gave me so much more than I gave to it. So I travel on, onwards and upwards and deeper I hope into the life and love of God.