I've been blessed with depression and anxiety for about 23 years, possibly longer. I am not being sarcastic; I do believe many "disabilities", problems, diseases, etc. can be a blessing to our lives, and therefore to others, if we can find and remain with God in them, who waits for us in their midst. I've learned to love my depression - not that I love being depressed; I really don't like those times very much. But I've had enough time now to gain a perspective of it and see how it has given me a deeper understanding of and communion with God and more compassion for others and for myself. I have experienced that until you have truly spent some quality time in the pit, at the lowest depths of despair and fear for which you have the capacity, you cannot truly live and love, abundantly, in your normal altitude or in the heights.
I have taken Deuteronomy 30:15 and 19 to heart and think of it as a calling. In those verses, God says: "See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction....Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life...."
I had a Bible professor in college (a former lumberjack - cool!) who told my class that if we wanted to really see God's love, read Deuteronomy. Now, I had never been able to read that section of the Bible without seeing God as a vindictive judge in the sky, not a lover. For a long time, I interpreted the verses I mentioned above as God saying, "I'm the boss, here are the rules, follow them or I'll zap ya'." It wasn't until my month-long retreat in early 2008 that I finally became able (with God's help) to see in those verses the tremendous love and yearning God had for his people then, and has for us now. God's not standing over them, frowning and shaking a finger at them, giving orders and threats. God is saying something like, "This is how I made you; therefore, this is how to have true life, and we can be one. Please choose life, because I cannot bear to be without you." On the retreat, God gave me the same plea.
I haven't embraced my anxiety yet; I discovered it fairly recently. With both anxiety and depression, I'm learning that choosing life, in big and small ways many times each day, keeps them from getting the best of me. Writing this blog has been very helpful for me in working out inner stuff, so I hope to begin a new habit of keeping a record of some of the days or moments when I choose life; perhaps even when I choose death. I believe writing about this will help me to develop a habit of actually living it out more often.
Some of the ways I've choosen life today:
- watched and appreciated, as long as I could, the smoky blue heron/egret/crane that lives in the park near my house, and discovered he/she has a mate - I didn't know there were two!
- took the dogs on a walk to the park this a.m. AND picked up their poop!
- spent time with, joked with, and cared for Grandpa, who has always been a source of joy for me
- did yoga's sun salutation
Yesterday I saw a rainbow and clapped my hands and gasped with joy like a little girl. I'd been looking for one the past couple of weeks, with all our rain. It was a wonderful gift, and I'm so glad I was paying attention and didn't miss it.
I pray that you also, when you are struggling, are able to choose life.