I don’t suppose there are too many people following this blog who followed my very first blog back in the day, but if you did, you know that one time I had breast cancer. What is less well known is that I have also struggled long and hard with comparatively mild but still medicatable anxiety/depression. But I’ve been cancer free for over a decade now, thank God, and haven’t needed mental health meds in almost that long. (There was about a month, four years ago, when I had a weird bout of depression made more weird by the fact that I had never had it without anxiety before; it was different and scary but somehow cleared up as suddenly as it arrived.)
And then I woke up this morning and found myself journal-crying. And then crying through my cardio workout (new gauge for levels of depression: depressed enough to sob through cardio; not depressed enough to skip the cardio). There are some pretty glaringly obvious other symptoms I’ve been experiencing since New Year’s which indicate to me that this current round of depression is connected to Time of Life, but the last time I preached we talked about how our bodies and our souls are a lot more interconnected than a dualistic Western worldview would lead us to believe, so my emotional/spiritual life has taken a beating here today, too, regardless of how much sense my intellect is trying to talk into me.
Here’s what happens in my soul when my body chemicals mess me up: I take my calling personally and myself too seriously. Like, I mean, when I try to introduce people to Jesus and they don’t want to know Him, or like when I stopped working at that one church and all the kids I was trying to disciple for seven years more or less explicitly rejected everything I had been trying to teach–I take it as a rejection of me. I used to do this all the time, until something happened when I took the course on which I have largely based Stepping Into the Story, when it finally clicked on a soul level that everything I do is about Jesus, and He isn’t necessarily finished with people even when they and I aren’t in each other’s lives anymore, and He brings the people into each others’ orbits when He intends to, and not when He doesn’t, and it’s really up to Him so I can just do what He’s given me to do and not worry about it.
Except when body chemicals are involved, apparently. Today when I woke up, the two biggest thoughts in my head were 1. Church attendance is shrinking again when it never grew that much to begin with and the financial hole we just crawled out of is sucking us back in, and 2. I really thought Stepping Into the Story had turned a corner and I’d be able to run two groups of it during the same season, of three people each, but instead I only have two people signed up, still, total, two days before one round of it starts. The combination of these two thoughts seemed like the worst thing in the world. And so, cardio sobbing and journal crying.
I’m not sharing this to be self-indulgent (although another side effect of today’s mindset might be not having an accurate analysis of my inner motivations. That might be a side effect of being human, too, though), but because the Pilgrimage is really for broken people. I mean, people who know they’re broken. Maybe it’s just a handful of us, limping or crawling or dragging ourselves along on this journey, recognizing we aren’t the superheroes and spiritual experts we’d like to be. But maybe that’s all there need to be. I don’t know.
I do feel like, in my own pilgrimage, God has given me some glimpses of light and the road ahead, some understanding of the pitfalls I’ve experienced on the road before, and some desire–and maybe even call–to share what I’ve gleaned with others who want the insight. But I suspect that sometimes, as I carry on this road, I project that I have it all together and am just waiting to bestow pearls of expert wisdom on people. Sometimes I might forget that I’m still on the journey toward healing myself. Or sometimes you might. So mornings like this one just passed are really a gift, a reality check, a reminder–for me and also for you. I need prayer to keep going. So do you. And we need to journey together. This pilgrimage was never meant to be traveled alone.