What does it say about me that when I received this month’s topic word, light, I started humming, “Let, the sun shine. Let the sunshine in, the sun shine in.” from the Fifth Dimension’s Aquarius?
Hmm. Perhaps it says I live in the gray, beautiful, rainy, Pacific Northwest, and am ready not only for light, but warmth, too. Maybe it means that I’d like to go to Maui. That’s IT! Maui is always a good answer. Because: sunshine. And because: Maui.
But seriously, though. Living in the Pacific Northwest has given me a new appreciation for light. It’s where I have really learned to appreciate the abundance of our amazingly well-lit summer evenings, and where I’m still learning to appreciate the rhythms of the seven-to-eight hour window of light in our fall/winter days. I have also grown deepest in my faith over these last nearly 16 years of living in the upper left of our nation.
In fact, as I have studied God’s Word, one of my dearest and oldest Scripture friends has “light”, right in it! Think of that. But, alas, it’s not about sunlight. It’s about the lightening of one’s load.
Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. ~ Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
Yes, I called this passage a Scripture friend, because it has been my lifeline more often than I care to remember. You see, I am a depressive person by nature. Yes, Gretch, just overshare all the way—go big or go home. As I was saying, I may look upbeat and even tend toward an anxious temperament because: reforming people pleaser, and according to my son, had I been a dog, I’d have been a Golden Retriever. But I have struggled with all kinds of depression since my twenties, and perhaps even before. I’ve had situational depression, e.g. depression associated with death of a loved one. I’ve had post-partum depression. I’ve had seasonal affective depression/disorder (SAD). I’ve had just plain, old, no reason except my brain chemistry lacks serotonin depression. Why am I sharing this? Well, for a few reasons. First, I think it’s *&%$# that mental illness is treated with so much more of a stigma and “pick yourself up by your bootstrap” mentality than physical difficulties. Got cancer? You should just get over it. Appendicitis? Take a lap. Sounds absurd, right? Well, the brain is a part of the body, and when something goes wonky within, it’s not as easy as just wishing it away. Just as I’d never tell a diabetic to go without her insulin, I’d never tell a bipolar person to stop taking her meds. Second, by my sharing, I hope that it makes someone else feel just a little less alone in her struggles, if she recognizes herself in any of my writing. And third, I believe by sharing what works for me in this battlefield of the mind, so to speak, it might help someone else. But here’s the catch: you know you best. Do what’s right for you. Let me emphasize that again: you do you. Please. But if anything I have to say helps you, may God receive all glory and honor.
You see, in finding my light again, I noticed that I’ve done best with a multi-pronged approach. And, honestly, for me, it begins and ends with God, with other stuff in the middle. I believe in exercise and eating well. I believe in my Happy Light. I believe in getting out socially. I believe in: talking therapy, meds, both singly and together, and I believe in the occasional glass of red wine and chocolate binge and a trip to somewhere sunny. But the single thing that has tied all of this together and made me feel the best is by leaning on and into Jesus, and asking the Holy Spirit to lead me in seeking what I need when I need it—in actually visualizing Jesus’ yoke and putting it on, like some sort of invisibility cloak. In the above passage, it’s as if Jesus holds me in his lap, tenderly wipes my tears and lifts my chin, and brushes my hair out of my face. Then He tenderly helps me back onto my feet, while never letting go of my hand. This, my friends, is healing. This is where His light yoke brings me my own lightness of being. Not only do I feel lighter, I see light. I see color and texture again. I see the world with hope-filled lenses, rather than hopeless eyes. Yes, the counseling, meds, doing the right things for my body as best I can, getting together with friends, and surrounding myself with a church family who is second to none is all part of my treatment plan. And yes, I need the prayers of the saints, as well as some darn good medicine to be clear enough to be able to carry out what’s right for my health. But God. God is my Alpha and Omega. I am convinced that He is the reason these things work compatibly to keep my mind as healthy as it can be, and I’m convinced that He even allows the lows for me to reach farther and hold tighter to Him. It’s said that when you have nothing else, or nothing to lose, you tend to look to God. He knows this. He knows my nature. My wiring is simply one more way for Him to work in my life, if I will just allow it. Total surrender is scary, for sure. We’re not used to doing this as a culture. But God loves and is glorified by a surrendered heart. In fact, he blesses us for it.
Friends, if you think you might be struggling with mental issues, please, please…see a doctor. See a counselor. Talk to a trusted friend, or pastor or parent. Do one next good thing which will point you into the direction to the next good thing. You.are.worth.it. But also, I encourage you to lean into the only One who knows you better than you know yourself, and who gives the best rest: Jesus.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. ~ John 1:5 (NIV)
Gee whiz. And now I’m humming, “This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine….”
Soli Deo Gloria.