“I don’t want to live like a vagrant anymore,” I pray. “I don’t want to be known for my lack, my weakness, my constant recurring despair.”
I inhabit a limited soul longing for the wide expanse of eternity. Sometimes I wonder aloud, “How long, Lord? How long must I wait?”
I first stood in line in the Walmart pharmacy to pick up my tiny orange bottle of pills that were prescribed like a life-line, a desperate measure I didn’t want to believe I needed even after the tears crashed down as I sat in my crinkly gown, feeling exposed and naked in every way, and my doctor reached out and took my hand in his and called me kiddo and promised we’d figure this out.
But the sadness made sense then. I had lost my baby. Who could blame me for my despair?
And when it didn’t relent, he scribbled a prescription out on his pad, ripped it off, and handed it to me.
I sat in the parking lot as I fingered the side of the bottle and slipped a tiny white pill up and onto my open palm, placing it on my tongue and gulping it down like bitter wine. I tore at the label, scratching at the sticker with my thumbnail. I didn’t want anyone to know I was taking an antidepressant.
I was embarrassed I wasn’t enough. I was embarrassed I couldn’t fix myself with more faith and more prayer and more hours dragged off the clock and spent in quiet seeking.
I was embarrassed on God’s behalf. He seemed to have dropped the ball when He made me.
So I searched for sin in the wreckage, a sign that if only I repented hard enough for my lack, the darkness would rise and lift and His presence would fill the empty places where nerves had long since stopped being receptive and the long pull of sadness had taken its place.
I want to believe God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness but it’s tedious to feel the ever present deficit. It hurts to walk with frail steps, mental illness a constant companion, consuming my life at the most inconvenient times. It’s hard to look around and see what appear to be whole people getting things done.
I feel the resistance all around me and I want to pretty myself up. Tidy up the corners of my mouth into an artfully arranged smile. I want to giggle like I did when I was a girl, I want to take in the leaves, fiery and burnt, blazing across the treetops, the wind making them stir and chatter happily.
I see them and believe in beauty all over again. He is so good at reminding me.
I grasp at God’s autumn love song and yet still the sun dips low and early and I feel the encroaching dark, like a devourer waiting to gobble the good days and spit out endless midnight.
Sometimes I turn up the music loud and lift weary arms high to the heavens and I sway under the weight and it might look like dancing but my mouth pushes worship from my lips with the faintest voice.
“I’m desperate for you,” I cry. I never mean it more than when despair creeps in.
I long to be asked how I am and to say, fine, with a wide lip-glossed smile and mean it. But often I am so undeniably not fine I can’t even bother to pretend.
I don’t know where I’m safe to be unfine.
I see it in their eyes. I see the wide circle tip-toed around my broken parts because they’re so messy and raw and tragic. They’re so tiresome to those who want me fixed by now. We all respect suffering for a season but then we long for a pristine ending, a moral, the salvaged parts made beautiful. Don’t we long for redemption to make sense of it all?
At first, they call you brave and vulnerable and honest for telling the truth that it’s not all perfect. That you believe even when you struggle to believe. That God is still good. At first they agree that life is hard, that mental illness is no joke for those who endure it, who spend their days dedicated to surviving it. But when you’re still trying to keep afloat and the years march on, it gets old.
I had a friend who went through a horrible divorce after discovering her husband’s multiple affairs and when he finally walked out on the family, she was left with an unyielding sorrow at all she had lost. Sideswiped by pain, it took her longer than many deemed appropriate to collect the shattered parts of her life and move on. At first, she was coddled like a fragile bird, people rushed in to watch her children, to help financially, to drop off casseroles, to Romans 8:28 her. They gave her room to grieve, to rage, to talk it out. Some offered prayer or the beautiful gift of listening. But time passed and when she still erupted in pockets of grief, it got dull. No one cared that carving pumpkins with the children was her husband’s thing and when she lugged the giant orange carcass onto the table, she found herself swallowed again.
We believe time heals all things and the clock is ticking. Shouldn’t you be redeemed by now?
So she learned to put on her brave face, to push down the pain rather than sit with it and offer it back to God. She denied Him the most broken parts of her soul. She learned to walk the tightrope and tip-toed on the line with her face creased into a smile.
She learned to be fine for everyone.
But I wonder, what if we didn’t grow so tired of admitting where we’re truly at? What if the church threw arms around the unfine?
What if we learned that church just might be the best place to be not fine for a bit? Or for a good long while if that’s what it takes.
What if we came unclean, unkempt, and scandalous and knelt at Jesus feet and let down our unwashed hair and scattered minds. What if we let our tears fall unrestrained? What if we believed our lips on His feet whispering praise and pouring out every last broken and precious thing means we’re bent low, the closest to worship, the closest to humility, the closest to really meaning, “I’m desperate for you.”