Breathe. That’s it. Now, again. Inhale. Shhhhh. Stay with me; everything will be fine. Hope is coming. Give me one more breath. That’s it. You’ve got this. Shhhhh.
I whisper this refrain often, not because I am an EMT tending to broken bodies but, rather, as a coaxing tool to survive wrenching darkness. It is familiar to me now, as is the deep that seeps uninvited through the door of my mind, a house guest with whom I’ve become accustomed but never friendly. It resides intimately with me for several days before dissolving as night into fierce sunrise, receding as a wave but a swell that will surely return. I brace for it, even as I wiggle my fingers and toes to reclaim life in numb limbs. The new morning finds me weary and cautious and tear-soaked.
Some of us might call this depression. I know no other name but Deep Dark. In these unexpected but recurring moments, a stifling sadness overwhelms me. Bedrock truth is obscured by a penetrating fog of panic; a growing sense of being lost, as Alice down the rabbit hole, threatens to break me into irreconcilable pieces. In this arrest, defeat seems certain. Unable to meet or even consider the need of any one human, all of my diminished capacity fuels a tenuous coping/enduring until this intruder takes flight.
It is not unlike the vast lake my eyes and toes soak up each year. The largest of the North American chain of lakes holds 10% of the world’s fresh water supply, averages an astonishing 500′ deep and pushes against the horizon in every direction no matter how hard your eyes strain to spy its shore. Superior is a formidable body of water, and I gleefully wander its craggy cliffs whenever possible.
This summer, as I hopped from one tumbled glacial boulder to another, I noticed that the place where land and deep meet is often precarious. Waves rush at rocky shoreline darkly cold and thrust toward sky to furiously breach worn stones that provide testimony to the constant friction. It is not a stretch to imagine that this, too, exists at the place where what we know collides with what we don’t, an irritating and often maddening resistance of will between confident knowledge and the pressing panic of what couldn’t be more unfathomable.
Mercifully, the watery edge spoke of hope as it revealed under my scrutiny an interesting pattern. In the presence of light, this boundary is gentler, the deep nearly playful as it laps quietly at its God-breathed border. Without wind or sinking sun, the surf soothes and lulls, licking the tenacious lichen that drink from it. As night descends and lingers, water pounds and roars. At the appointed time, sun returns along with docile surf.
That illumination stills the conflict between what is and isn’t known hardly seems revolutionary but the method by which that light is ushered does. It has come for me in the beauty of tender blue eyes that search and see anguish in mine, soft and skilled hands that deliver nourishment to my frazzled body, and pure tongues that declare my God-daughter status no matter who tries to claim me. It comes by way of meals like cheese plates drizzled with honey and “water soup” made with 6-year old fingers bearing brightly chipped nail polish. It certainly comes in the form of chubby-cheeked hugs and timely text messages and sharing my need with others who know the same.
In all this, I am increasingly aware of how much my Father loves me. I understand that his faithfulness is an unwillingness to abandon me though the same despair brings the same need in the same way again and again and again. I now know mercy says “I could be” and grace declares “I will be” regardless of – no, because of – my wretched and prone posture.
Being well-loved ushers a light that, at the appointed time, will always and ever save me from what I don’t know and its awful bedfellow, Deep Dark. As if God’s institutions of marriage, family and church aren’t satisfying enough to restore peace between Today and One Day, he also drenches us with the grace of glory: my restored joy is a righteous crown worn by the body that serves me, just as their illumination is mine. Perhaps knowing this is all that matters.
“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” (2 Thessalonians 2:19-20)