Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Flickering Flame

As an acolyte at Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal, I’ve spent a good part of the last year-and-a-half standing at the Western door with my hand cupped around a candle, protecting the flame from the breezes following our congregants through the doors. In summer, the winds are hot, longing to lift the hair off my neck. In winter, the winds burn with an icy, cutting fire that works its way down to my very bones. But always, always, the door opens and the wind dances around my candle, bending my flame this way and that as it flickers against the changing currents. So I stand with my hand shielding the fire, guarding it from the breeze and feeling the unwavering heat against my palm.

Over the years, I’ve often heard it said that faith is like that flame you have to shelter from the wind. People will talk about faith as though it’s a fire we have to feed, that we have to tend, that we have to preserve against the winds and forces that would blow it out. We talk about not hiding our flame, but letting it shine. We talk about faith as a fragile thing that ebbs and flows and sometimes threatens to go out.

To some extent that’s true: we experience our faith as ebbing and flowing because it’s alive, and within us moves and has its being. We experience our faith as sometimes flaring up, as sometimes guttering, and as sometimes a steady burn. But that’s our experience of faith. Our faith, more truly, is a gift from God given in and through the Holy Spirit. Although the way we experience faith is mutable, it’s a mistake to think this means our faith is inconstant and changeable, that we can lose it or throw it away or allow its fire to go out. Although we may resist our faith, because we resist God, it is always still there, closer to us that we are to ourselves, as God is.

Lately, I’ve been feeling my life is like that flame, flickering and failing and threatening to go out in the violent breezes. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe, like there’s no more air, nothing to sustain me – and I think of the recurrent nightmare I had throughout childhood, where something that should be light is inexplicably heavy instead, and it is pressing down and suffocating me, until suddenly I am falling and falling, waking up when I hit the ground in terror.

Sometimes I feel like there’s too much air, too much everything, tearing and pulling at me, pushing me to and fro. And I don’t know if I can bear it.

The strong winds are arrayed against me, and I cannot withstand them. I feel my clothing pressing against my ribcage, my necklace lying against my collarbone, and I cannot abide it. Touching my skin irritates me, and I do not understand it. My veins, so close to the surface, torment me all day with thoughts that I should open them, and I am weary of resisting. I am weary of not being able to read and follow complex texts and movies. I am tired of the constant, constant sadness and emotional pain. I am weary of not wanting to eat, of not enjoying food, of not caring about what I’m wearing, of not having the strength to put on makeup, and of existing. I’m tired of not sleeping, and of staring at walls. It wears away at me, day by day, as I hold the burden. Thoughts of my own unworthiness, of my guilt, of what I have allowed to happen to me, swirl in my head. It is the nature of depression to lie, and the line between the truth and the lie becomes thin and invisible as a razor’s edge; my mind is fragmenting against itself, and I am afraid I will not be able to know the difference. Night falls fast, and the darkness is my constant companion. I see my life, like the fragile flame, flickering, and I am afraid of the darkness that will fall if it goes out.

My life is like the burning flame, and I am ambivalent about whether or not I want it to go out. I remember, when I was 19, waking up in the freezing ICU, attached to heart monitors and IV’s, with blood molded to my nostril where they had shoved down one of the tubes for pumping my stomach. I remember waking up with the absolute conviction that I was alive because God had decided to save me. I was angry with Him, but I felt like I owed it to Him to struggle to keep living. I remember, when I was 23, waking up in the emergency room, setting off alarms as I tried to remove my own IV line to stab myself with the sturdy needle. I remember feeling like a failure, disappointed that I was alive, and not knowing how this fit into God’s plan or what the point was. I remember my psychiatrist crying, and feeling like I owed it to him to keep trying.

I don’t know how I would feel, at 30, if I woke up again. I don’t know if I would be relieved or disappointed, forgiving of myself or deeply ashamed. But I do know that it’s important for me that people understand certain things, like that this might be the course my illness always has to take, and that while I can try to forestall it I am not always in control. And I’m sorry for what this does to the people around me, and I know I’m not the only one affected. And I’m sorry.

If I am the flickering flame, my faith is the hand cupped around me trying to keep me from going out. It’s important to me that people understand God has not failed. God is with me, I know He hasn’t abandoned me. I know that God said all is falling into darkness and God is the light, and I know that I need to hold on to the light. This isn’t about God failing, or my faith not being strong enough. If the candle goes out, that doesn’t say anything about the hand guarding it. It says only that the flame is too fragile, too weak, and the winds too strong.

Once, as part of a procession, I took my candle outside and the wind blew it out. It was just too much, and I couldn’t protect the whole flame. God’s hand is like that: it doesn’t completely surround you, because God treasures the flame and wants it to be. Under a bell jar, the fire would burn steady and then suffocate, starved of air. God’s love for us, as people and as humanity, means that He allows us to flicker, to burn unevenly, to shine in the world, and to be blown out.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:37-39).

Sunday, December 1, 2013

To Become Like Children

“And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire” (Mt 18:8-9).

Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, Christianity is not a religion that generally promotes self-mutilation. Sure, there are exceptions: Opus Dei and some religious orders practice self-flagellation as part of the mortification of the flesh; crucifixion of the faithful to celebrate Good Friday in the Philippines; the occasional castration of singers, and monks who long too boldly. But for the most part, we consider the body sacred, a temple unto the Lord. And yet, here is Jesus, telling us to chop off our hands and feet, to pluck out our eyes, if they cause us to sin.

Earlier in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells us that it is not what we put into the body that defiles, but what comes out of it (Mt 15:10-20). Taken together with this passage, we are presented with a human person whose being is profoundly embodied. The hand is not somehow being acted upon by the mind or spirit, being caused by the mind or spirit to sin. The hand is sinning, is the sin. The hand is not something that is defiled by being outside the self; nor is it a part or thing that can come into contact with you and defile you, leaving the soul blameless.

There is in the Christian tradition a profound pattern of trying to make the body bear the brunt of sin, the burden of sin, by saying that the flesh corrupts the spirit, as if the two are somehow separate. Chopping off your own hand is a sort-of metaphor for cutting out all the bits of you that lead you to sin. What good is it to cut off the hand if the desire for sin remains? Sin arises from each and every part of you, not just the one bit or the other, the body or the soul. It’s a question of the whole person, and the sometimes drastic changes we need to make to be able to stop committing particular sins.

I struggle with this passage because I struggle to understand exactly how much, and in what ways, my depression is leading me to sin. Apart from some of the more extreme things I’ve done while in the grip of depression (which are clearly sins) there are all sorts of ways my illness causes me to sin. It makes me more self-centered and self-absorbed because I begin to live in a bubble of my pain. It makes me less aware of other people and their pain. It makes me put myself, and my struggles, at the centre of my life instead of God. It makes me angry and hate myself. It makes me believe that my life is pointless, and meaningless, and that there’s no good reason to do anything, or even to keep going at all.

Is depression a part of me, or is it something that comes from outside and does not defile? The question plagues me because I struggle with knowing whether or not what it causes me to do is sin, or just illness. I think the answer is complicated. I think there isn’t just one answer. My depression lives inside me, in my body and in my mind, and so is profoundly who I am, and its sins are mine. My depression is not me but something that has gone wrong inside of me, a thing apart from me that cannot defile, though it resides within me, and its sins are not mine.

Both statements are true. Both statements are false. My depression and I are intertwined in complicated, unknowable ways, and while we can be conceived of separately, we are not, in fact, separate. Sort of how my body, mind, and soul are not separate. The difference is that I will always be embodied, but at the judgement only I will be thrown into the fire, and all that I am, and nothing that I am not.

We all have things about us that lead us to sin. Desires, personality traits, impulses of the flesh. And it isn’t as simple as chopping off your arm and being done with the whole business. There are things in the world that lead us into temptation (My 18:7), and we must try to avoid them. There are things about ourselves that lead us into temptation, and we can’t avoid them; we must strive to change ourselves, to get rid of those things. It’s painful, far more painful and difficult than plucking out an eye. We must be willing, in the face of God, to let go of those parts of ourselves that in their own way make us who we are, that they may be thrown into the fire so that we may have life.

Jesus tells us that we must “turn and become like children” (Mt 18:3) by humbling ourselves. It’s difficult to admit that there are parts of us that are just plain wrong. It’s difficult to admit that our lives, in all their glory and sorrow, are permeated by sin. It’s difficult to let go of the parts of ourselves that lead us especially to sin, because it’s always difficult to let go. We cling, and we cling, and we cling to our selves, to who and what we are, as if it will save us or be what about us is saved. But to have eternal life we must be willing to lose our lives (Mt 16:25). Jesus will save us, and we will not be saved by anything that we are. But we will be transformed, and we will be different. The old self will have to be let go, and we need to be ready and willing to do it.

No one can live this life free from sin, though we are called to struggle with all our might against it. Thankfully, we have God on our side: “it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Mt 18:14). God is helping us as we seek to turn and be like children, to be humble enough to admit our faults, and to seek a better way – God’s way – no matter what the cost.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Loaves and the Fishes

“And they all ate and were satisfied” (Mt 15:37).

Matthew 15:32-39 is a story beloved by many. Having been with the crowd for three days, Jesus has compassion on them because they have had nothing to eat. Not wanting them to faint on the way home, Jesus calls His disciples to Him, and they balk at the idea of somehow feeding these thousands of people in the desert. Rather than being put-off by their no-can-do attitude, Jesus asks them to bring what little food they have. After giving thanks for the seven loaves and a few small fish, Jesus breaks them, gives them to the disciples, and has them distribute the pieces to the crowd. They all eat and are satisfied, and seven basketfuls are taken up of what remains. Having fed them, Jesus sends the crowd on their way and continues His journey with the disciples.

This story has always fascinated me. I wonder to myself, What made Jesus worry about people being hungry after three days? Surely, not having food must have been an ongoing problem, so why is Jesus only mentioning it now? While the text might intend the three days to be a symbolic mirror of Jesus’ three days between death and resurrection, and the breaking of the loaves and fish to foreshadow the Last Supper and the breaking of His Body and Blood, it has just never seemed obvious to me.

I think of the three days in the desert with no food and I think, Wow, you must really have wanted to be with Jesus. You stuck it out the whole time He was there, and you probably would have stuck it out indefinitely. I don’t know if I would have had that kind of stamina.

A good part of our faith life is spent sticking it out with Jesus. Long periods in the desert, in dryness, without any nourishment. Long periods of life are spent just hanging on, just keeping on going. Jesus was doing some miraculous stuff in that desert, but not for everyone. Of all the thousands of people who came for miracles, who brought people for miracles, who came to see miracles, there was no one who couldn’t have had their fill in the first hour, the first minute, the first day. “Well, I’ve seen a miracle;” “I’m cured now, bye.” But the crowd stayed for three days, and left because Jesus sent them away.

The really amazing part is that Jesus notices you’re there, hanging around, for all this time. His days are taken up with healing people, making the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and countless other miracles. Jesus is incredibly busy doing really important stuff. But He still notices the crowd, He still notices that people have been there this whole time, He still notices that they must be hungry because they’ve brought no food. In the midst of all that God is and all that God is doing, God sees that we’re sticking it out. Even if all we’re doing is hanging on, God sees it. Sometimes it’s all you can do, and Jesus knows that. Jesus notices. Whatever is it that’s going on in our lives, it is not beneath God to care about it.

“And they all ate and were satisfied.”

It’s impossible to not see the miracle that Jesus performs in this story. Even if you believe there are many other, scientific reasons that the blind may have started seeing, the lame walking, and the deaf hearing, there’s no other way the loaves and the fish could have multiplied other than that God did it.

Jesus has to coax it out of the disciples. At first, they don’t believe He’s even suggesting feeding all these people. Jesus has to ask them how much food they have with them for the disciples to bring it forward. This is their second multiplying-of-the food miracle (Mt 14:13-21), and they still don’t see it coming. Finally they bring Him what little they have, and Jesus gives thanks and uses it to feed thousands of people.

God takes our small, humble, human gifts and in His power makes them bigger than they ever could be. There’s nothing you could ever bring to God that’s too small for Him to work miracles with. God can make even the smallest of things be enough. And not just enough, but abundant. Jesus feeds the crowd and there are basketfuls of excess. Basketfuls. God’s love is so powerful, God’s power is so abundant, that He gives us more than we could ever need.

It’s easy to feel like you don’t have anything worth giving to God. It’s easy to feel that you are small, and insignificant, like grass that withers away and is thrown into the furnace. What is a human life to God? What could you ever hope to have, or be, that is worthy of giving Him? Everyone has moments when they believe that, and if you struggle with depression you just have more of them. What do I have, what am I, that I could possibly offer God?

Nothing, and everything. You are already God’s, so you have nothing to give Him. But you can give Him your whole self, even the not-so-fantastic bits, because you have yourself to give the One to Whom you belong: that’s what love does. Before God’s awesome power and love, of course you feel small and worthless – but God made you for His purposes and delights in you, for you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Of course you feel that what you have to give God isn’t enough – but God will make it enough. By ourselves, we are small and of little account – but just because God limits Godself does not mean that God is limited. In God, we are made so much more that we could ever hope or ask or imagine.

“And they all ate and were satisfied.”

In Matthew’s story, the crowd doesn’t have to do anything to receive Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and the fish. They just have to be there. In fact, they are there already to receive something freely from Jesus because they are there to witness or receive miracles. They have come to watch the lame walking and to walk; the blind seeing and to see; the deaf hearing and to hear. Jesus gives them this miracle not because of anything they’ve done for him, but simply because they are hungry and He wants them not to be.

So often we think of miracles as the result of prayer, or of faith, or of something we’ve done to be worthy of God’s favor. “God healed me because I have so much faith;” “God gave me a vision because my contemplative prayer life is so regular;” “I saw Mary’s face on a piece of toast because I am so virtuous.” But that isn’t necessarily true. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gives the crowd a miracle because he feels like it – not because they asked Him, not because they convinced Him, and not because they did anything for Him either before or in return.

Obviously these people had faith: they were out in the desert for three days. But the miracle is not dependant on their faith, it’s dependant on Jesus. The English translation of the text says that he “[had] compassion on the crowd” (15:32). When we talk about compassion we don’t just mean that God understands or knows what you are feeling, but that God is feeling it too. I had a conversation recently where someone much wiser than I am suggested that God feels what you are feeling, that God feels sad when you feel sad, that God feels happy when you feel happy, that God feels betrayed when you feel betrayed. I’ve always believed – always known somewhere deep inside me, even when the darkness has swallowed me whole – that God is with me, that God is beside me, that I am not alone. But I’ve never thought about God feeling what I’m feeling while He’s down there with me. It’s difficult to get my head around it. That God’s compassion doesn’t just mean He feels bad for us and wants to help us, but that He feels bad. In the desert, Jesus fed the crowd because Jesus was hungry.

“And they all ate and were satisfied.”

This doesn’t mean that we should sit complacently by the wayside waiting for a miracle whenever God feels like giving us one. Jesus actively involves the disciples: He could have handed out the loaves and fish Himself, the fruits of His miracle, but instead He has the disciples do it. The disciples don’t even think it’s possible for Jesus to feed the crowd, they cannot conceived of it, and yet God calls on them to be a part of His plan, a part of His miracle. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that there are times – perhaps many times – in our lives where God speaks to us or asks us to do something or tries to give us a message and we just completely fail to get it. We don’t hear it. We don’t understand it. And when we do hear it, it can be confusing and seem impossible. But we are called to hand out the loaves and the fishes, to use our small gifts for God, regardless of what we might think about it. We might think we’re too small, but we have to have faith that God will make us be enough.

The crowd trusts that Jesus will take care of them, without hesitation and without fear. There is never any question. No one even brought any food. They went out into the desert to be with Jesus and didn’t think about the practicalities of it, what they might need to do to plan, or how long they might be out there. They were willing to trust that it would work itself out, somehow. We are called to that kind of faith, that kind of trust. Trusting God completely, enough to let go, enough to follow Him out into the desert, is its own miracle. When I pray for a miracle, and God says no, not today, I have to trust that God has a plan, that He knows what He’s doing, that He will take care of me, that I am not forgotten even in the midst of all the big works that He is doing. For we are small and of little account, and we are also infinitely precious in the sight of the Lord.

The crowd that comes to see Jesus is with Him for three days before He feeds them. Sometimes, you have to wait for a miracle, to be patient. You have to be willing to stick it out, to hang around, to keep going. Jesus is sticking by you and you have to stick by Him, even when it’s difficult, especially when it’s difficult. God will provide, but it will be in God’s own way and in God’s own time. God will provide, and do so abundantly.

“And they all ate and were satisfied.”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Strength of My Hands

For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from their work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen thou my hands” (Neh 6:9).

The book of Nehemiah begins with the speaker discovering that the wall around Jerusalem has been “broken down, and its gates [destroyed] by fire” (1:3). As cupbearer to king Artaxerxes, Nehemiah does not live in Jerusalem with those who survived the exile and returned, but he still feels a deep connection to the hoy city: learning its wall has fallen, he sits down and weeps (1:4). Nehemiah asks God to forgive His people for their sins against Him, and comes to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall (1:4-11). He inspects it without telling anyone what he intends, then convinces the people to “[strengthen] their hands” (2:18) and begin to rebuild, so Jerusalem may no longer live in disgrace.

The people of the Nations surrounding Israel don’t like Nehemiah rebuilding the wall. They mock and deride the Israelites for building it, asking if they are defying the king (2:19). Still, they keep building the wall. Their enemies plot to fight them (4:8), and Nehemiah sets a guard on the wall, and they keep building. Their enemies plot to kill them in the middle of their work (4:11), and Nehemiah places people in every space, one person to build and another to defend. He reminds them not to be afraid of their enemies but to remember “the Lord, who is great and terrible” (4:14). They keep building the wall. The people who carry burdens have the load in one hand and a sword in the other (4:17), and they keep building the wall. They labour at their work and sleep with weapons in their hands, retreating into the city at night (4:21-23).

When the wall is built, with no doors yet in its gates, Jerusalem’s enemies try to trick Nehemiah into leaving the city to meet them, so they can kill him (6:1-2). He refuses to stop the work and leave. His enemies accuse him of wanting to be king, thinking that he will be frightened of Persia’s reprisals (6:6-9). People try to fool Nehemiah into closing himself in the temple, thereby declaring himself ruler of Jerusalem and bringing down Artaxerxes’ wrath (6:10-13). Jerusalem’s enemies try everything they can think of to fill the Israelites’ hearts with fear, so their hands will drop from their work, so that they will give up. Through it all, they keep building the wall until the city is surrounded and its gates are secured.

It’s easy to question why Nehemiah was so hung up on building the wall in the first place, and why he was so devastated to hear it had been destroyed: after all, “the people within [Jerusalem] were few and no houses had been built” (7:4). For Nehemiah, Jerusalem – its temple, its people, and its walls – represents much, much more than just a city, much more even than a home. Jerusalem represents God’s covenant with Israel: that He will be their God and they will be His people; that the people will never cease to be; that a king of David’s line will sit on the throne; that they will be a multitude beyond numbering. The people have come up from Egypt and God has delivered them into their own land, which they shall hold forever as their inheritance.

For Nehemiah, and for most of the Hebrew bible, Israel’s misfortunes happen because of sin. The people are sent into exile, and Jerusalem is destroyed, because they turned away from God through idolatry and did not keep His commandments. The temple must be rebuilt so that the people can keep the laws and glorify the Lord. The people must repent and be purified so the remnant can be restored. The walls of Jerusalem must be built because the city is both the reality and the symbol of God’s promise that He will gather His scattered people from among the nations and return them to Himself.

Each in her own way, we are like Nehemiah and the Israelites building Jerusalem’s wall. We all have work we are called by God to do. God has covenanted Himself with us and we are asked to do His work, to follow where He leads us, to repent and turn to Him anew. Like Nehemiah and the Israelites, we are faced with enemies, forces that try to turn us aside, to step off the path, that frighten us into dropping our hands from our work.

Depression can be that enemy in different ways. It can strip you of your energy and will, leaving you paralyzed. Anhedonia can make you lose interest and pleasure in the people and things that are important to you. You might not be able to concentrate, as if you’re thinking and moving and seeing through a thick fog. You could spend hours sobbing uncontrollably, or numb to the world and staring at a wall, or curled up under a pile of blankets. You could be crushed by fear, and guilt, and loneliness, and the feeling that your life has no meaning and is not worth living. Sometimes you might want to withdraw from everyone. Sometimes you might be afraid to be with anyone because you’re desperately trying to hide the reality of what’s happening to you.

Everyone – no matter who they are – has enemies urging them to drop their hands from building the wall. It’s easy to fall prey to these forces because they’re powerful, because sometimes their way looks simpler, because it isn’t always obvious that we’re doing God’s work. The thing about not building an actual wall is that it isn’t always clear what bits of what we’re doing are part of God’s plan. But we know we’re called to praise and glorify the Lord, and to love God and neighbor.

The story of Nehemiah building the wall shows us that it’s important not to allow anything to let our hands drop from God’s work. We must keep striving no matter what tries to frighten us away. Though the Israelites have been beaten down, have been conquered, are still conquered, and have sinned – they are still building the wall, and God is still helping them.

We are not building a wall, not rebuilding a home, because we have a home in Jesus and it can never fall. We have a temple, and God raised it in three days. We do God’s work, however fragile it may turn out to be, on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, which will never be shaken.

Like Nehemiah, we cannot expect to do it alone, and we need to learn to admit that. I have to learn to admit that. Sometimes I can’t do it, I can’t be who I want to be. I just can’t. Whatever it is that God wants me to do, I can’t today. I am failing. And I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. But God gathered the remnant, and I know when I try again tomorrow He will gather me. Nehemiah wasn’t the only person building that wall, so maybe it’s okay to do it together. To defend us, we have the martyrs and saints, the whole company of heaven, God, and each other. It’s okay to not be able to do it alone. In his moments of weakness, Nehemiah asks God to strengthen him. In darkness, in doubt, in despair, God is the strength of our hands. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

White Birch by the Water

I like to walk around because it helps me to clear my head of the thoughts that clutter it up so much of the time: all that movement, rhythmic motion, all that breath, takes me out of myself somehow. I can’t say I always notice the world around me, but I do try to.

This is not a post about theology, or the Bible, or anything bigger or other than me. If you come here only for the sometimes strange things I say while I’m thinking about God and the Bible, you might want to skip this one.

It was a nice day out, warm for the time of year and sunny, so I decided to go for a long walk. I walked out to around Oka park, along the bike path that runs near my house. I’m fortunate to live so close to this long trail through the forest. I went all the way out to one of my favorite spots, a somewhat isolated pond off the main path through a small trail. I followed the trail to a white birch tree so I could sit in its hollow and look at the water. The trees have lost their leaves, and everything was still and quiet.

I looked at a dead, fallen tree dangling its leafless branches in the still water. In some ways I feel like the tree, not all the way in and not all the way out of life, of living. Partway under the surface. I thought about walking into the water, feeling the pond slip over me like a tree falling under the calm surface, carried by its weight further under the deep waters. I imagined what it would be like, how easy it would feel, to fall asleep beneath the unbroken silver of the pond.

But the water is cold this time of year. And I figured not wanting to die in cold water was reason enough to go back home and leave the white birch tree alone where it had fallen.

The thing is that I’m experiencing a major depressive episode. I’m trying to live my life exactly the way I normally do, but I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know if that’s the right decision or not, or if it will be possible as I fall deeper into this illness. While I have adapted to years of chronic, stable depression, I have never been prepared for these major episodes and I am not prepared now. I am having symptoms that are unusual for me.

I want to thank you for supporting me and keeping me in your thoughts and prayers as I know you’ve been doing. I also want to thank you for reading this blog: writing it, and knowing that I’m not the only person here reading it, is important to me in ways that I hadn’t realized until I began to really struggle with whether or not I should – or could, or can – continue writing it. I started this project because I felt compelled to think seriously about my own depression and my own spirituality and theology as aspects of my life that are intertwined. But it has helped me feel more connected to myself, more sure of my beliefs, and less alone as I struggle with these questions and search for meaning in what I find is happening to me.

Your support means a lot to me , and I hope to have you with me here (and elsewhere) throughout this journey.