A couple weeks ago, I met with one of the ministers at my church to talk about my depression. Though I really feel like I’m on my way to pulling myself out of this hole and every day gets better and better, I was still struggling with feeling separate from God during this time. If you’re not a Christian, then that might be a hard concept to imagine and running off to a minister might seem awfully dramatic. Shoot, if you ARE a Christian, running off to a minister might seem awfully dramatic. But my faith is important to me. It’s where I get my optimism and my hope and my belief that things work out in certain ways for certain reasons. And when I feel separate from my faith, I lose those things. I finally decided that I desperately needed those things in my life in order to fully feel like myself again and so I made an appointment to meet with my minister to talk about where I was in my faith and how I could get back to where I wanted and needed to be.
Fortunately for me, my minister is a very wise woman, but what she told me was not what I wanted to hear. As a Type A personality who just wants to DO SOMETHING to fix a problem, we talked about how during this time I should, instead, be still and listen more. And that I can take the time to do that for myself because God will not only be waiting there when I am through this, but he will be standing there beside me as I go through it. Her exact words will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“God doesn’t promise to take us out of the valley, but he promises to walk beside us through it.”
We talked not just about my faith during that time, but about my depression in general. She called it a season. And I love that because seasons have good days and bad. Some days during the winter months are cloudy and snowy and some are bright and sunny, but the season is still there. And that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling. My day to day life has been up and down, but no matter how high or how low, there is still that season sitting there. And, as my minister pointed out, you just have to wait out seasons. It’s good for you to be patient. To let this time mold you and change you. Embrace it, she even said to me. Embrace it and know that it is only a season and it will pass in God’s time.
Part of embracing this season has been really thinking about some of the things that brought this season into my life. And the main trigger has been our move from Connecticut. Ironically enough (but is it really irony when it’s God’s voice?), the previous Sunday before my meeting with my minister, our head pastor gave a sermon about change. He said that dealing with a major change is more like dealing with a transition and that transitions have distinct parts to them that can’t be skipped. You have to let go of what you are leaving behind. You then have to mourn for that loss. And then you have to look forward and move on. My minister and I talked about this cycle and I shared that I thought maybe I had skipped the mourning part. I wanted so much to get down here to Florida and just start this brand new fun-filled, sun-filled, family-filled life and so I skipped the mourning part. I didn’t give myself time to acknowledge the loss of a huge piece of my life. And when I rushed past that phase, it finally caught up with me. Like someone who is mourning and skips one of the steps. You can’t truly move on until you go through all the phases.
So, in the past week since my meeting with her, I have thought about embracing where I am and what I am feeling and what I am feeling is horribly, terribly homesick. I can barely get on Facebook or Twitter anymore without seeing other people’s status updates about the cold weather and the snow and becoming sad. Not just for the loss of the weather, but for the loss of our life up there. This was my favorite time of year in Connecticut. And as much as I am looking forward to making this Christmas so memorable (it’s our first in our own home, for crying out loud!), I must admit that it is hard to get into the spirit of things when you’re putting Christmas lights on your palm tree next to your swimming pool.
A month or two ago, I couldn’t even let myself think of things like that because I’d just start crying and wander into some dark hole to nap for three days. But after acknowledging that it’s okay to feel these things and that it’s even a healthy part of moving forward, I am letting myself think and feel that homesickness a little more. And you know what? The sad doesn’t seem to last as long or be as heavy when I give myself permission to feel it. Isn’t that funny? All this time I’ve been fighting that sad because it wasn’t “normal” or it wasn’t “appropriate,” when in actuality, avoiding those feelings are what has made this feel darker and longer.
Tonight, I read an email from my sister who had a snow day today in Virginia. She sent a beautiful picture of her snow covered neighborhood and a short little email about being snowed in with her husband all day. And, I admit, I got all teared up for a minute. And then I tried to get myself together and told myself how ridiculous I was being. But I stopped and reminded myself that feeling my way through this is the only way to make it out the other side. And so I opened the email again and looked at the picture for 5 minutes. Then, I went through my pictures on my computer and found this one of our house in Connecticut last Christmas:
And I had myself a good 10 minute cry sitting right here at my computer. Then, I wiped my eyes, closed my email, kissed my husband and my Bean Bean, and made dinner. And the world moved on.
I debated about sharing all of this because, well, it’s Christmas and Christmas is such a happy time and who wants to hear about this stuff during happy holidays? But then I thought that maybe if I’m feeling sadness and loss and grief this holiday after such a drastic change in my life this year, then perhaps someone else out there is, too. And so I want that person to know – whoever you are – that it’s okay to feel those things at the happiest time of the year. And that feeling those things doesn’t make you a Grinch or a Scrooge. It just makes you human. Which, if you think about it, is appropriate at this time of year as we celebrate the day that Christ became human.
I know! Can you believe I got all of that out of one hour-long conversation with my minister?!?! It was CRAZY, I tell you. AND THAT’S NOT ALL!
Out of everything that we talked about, the greatest thing that she gave me that afternoon was a Bible verse from a book of the Bible that I didn’t even know about (which is saying something because I double-majored in English and Religion in college…).
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine,
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
That is exactly how I feel this Christmas season. I am not growing and am not fruitful right now and I can’t pretend that I am, but I will still celebrate this Christmas season because I know that God is standing in this place with me. And I hope that if you, too, are struggling with sadness or loss during this time of year, you find the place where you can stand and be joyful because even the coldest seasons have bright, sunny days.