Lent is a wilderness time.
We go our own 40 days into the desert, back to the dust from which we came. It’s a time of prayer, contemplation, and waiting with God. It can be a profound and profoundly lonely journey.
At its best, Lent is a time of honesty, confession, and repentance. Of stripping away the carefully manicured facade, and getting real. Of letting God and others see who we really are at our core, and clearing out the dust, so we can remember that God loves us just as we are and too much to let us stay that way.
So, I am breaking the silence, and saying it out loud (well, if not out loud, than in writing on the internet): I know something about wilderness times, because I have been to the desert that seemed as though it would never end. And I’ve lived to tell about it.
See, I’ve battled depression and anxiety since I was 18.
At first it was a slow creep, the dark, suffocating, constant sadness. It rolled in slowly like a deep fog on a spring day, slowly enveloping me until I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t really see, or breathe, or get out of bed anymore. Then, it became more constant, insistent, crushing. And, it traveled with me everywhere I went.
Sometimes, it is the insidious voice that sits on my shoulder and whispers: not pretty enough, not smart enough, not good enough, no one will want you to be their minister. It leaves me so knotted with anxiety that I can't move. It renders me so profoundly sad that tears roll down like a mighty storm and threaten to drown me. It makes hope feel so far away and that God is turning away from my cries...
Perhaps you know this story too? Or one like it? Perhaps your wilderness time of Lent is full of lament, and profound depression? Perhaps, your wilderness feels never ending, overwhelming, infinite.
If so, here's some good news: the desert does not have the last word. It invites us to be boldly, authentically, messily ourselves. It invites us to let God in. It’s scary, I know. It invites us to hear God’s voice speaking louder than all others (even depression!) calling us, claiming us, and loving us back to life.
The prophet Isaiah tells us that our name is written in the palm of God’s hand. Though the mouth of Isaiah, she whispers to us: Beloved. Holy. Beautiful. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Child. Pride of my life.
And, here's even more good news: in the end, God conquers the wilderness of depression, addiction, violence, pain, hurt, hate, and even death itself. These things will not have the last word. In the end, LOVE wins.
It's true: during the 40 days of Lent, we enter the desert. We go back to the dust from which we came but we do not go alone. God is with us even (and especially!) in the wilderness as we pray, confess, repent, and become more fully ourselves - thanks be to God!
Eternal comforter, we give you thanks that winter fades, death dies, stones move, and love wins. Help us to hear your voice above all others, especially the voices of darkness, depression, and self-doubt. And if we can’t do that, help us to know that you are as close to us as our own breath, even when you might feel far away. And, please don’t leave us in the wilderness too long, ok? Finally, grant us your peace that passes all understanding and do it sooner rather than later, ok? Amen.
Special SALT thank you to my (Heidi's) therapists across the years, my awesome medical providers, and the people who have been part of my support team. If you're reading this and you haven’t quite found your way out yet, that’s ok. Here are a couple of great organizations that can help: NAMI and TWLOHA.