“I’m sorry, God.”
One hot tear dripped off my nose and soaked into my pillow.
Every night I’ve prayed for the heaviness to be gone in the morning, to wake up for the first time in months without the weight on my chest and the knot in my gut. And every night I’ve looked back on all the versions of “I’m sorry” I’ve spoken that day, ashamed.
I’m sorry, friend, for asking more of you than I am able to give back.
I’m sorry, professor, that I wasn’t in class again, and that this paper isn’t finished yet.
I’m sorry, body, for all the extra weight I’ve gained that you shouldn’t have to carry.
I’m sorry, boss, that I didn’t quite meet this deadline.
I’m sorry, church family, that I missed choir rehearsal, and didn’t show up Sunday morning this week.
I’m sorry, self, that you’re sad and restless and fatigued and don’t quite understand why.
So this morning, while I struggled to swing my legs over the side of the bed, I whispered a preemptive apology: I’m sorry, God, that I can’t do anything for you again today.
Depression isn’t foreign to me. It’s been an on-and-off battle mostly in the last three years, although it made appearances in high school as well. I go through seasons of sadness and unasked-for apathy, and then I find some sort of footing, come out of it, even forget the struggle of it, until it cycles back down, taking me with it. There’s no rhyme or reason: sometimes there are consistent triggers, sometimes there are not. Sometimes it’s fueled by external circumstances, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the usual coping mechanisms are helpful, sometimes they are not.
Usually, I remain highly functional, this time I have not.
So when my Perfectionist, Enneagram Giver-Achiever, Strengthsfinder Responsibility self comes face to face with days where I cannot will myself out of bed before 4:30pm, or have to go home after one class on threat of panic attack, or stare at the assignments tab for hours without any drive to start the task–when everything in me wants to be able to perform at the level I usually do and I just can’t–I begin to wrestle with questions of identity, questions of grace, questions of how long this is all going to last.
What if this sorrow lasts? What if the depression doesn’t go away? Ever? What then?
Am I able to separate my understanding of who am I from what I am able to produce?
Is my understanding of grace limited to the underserved gifts of skill sets, insight, material things, or relationships and connections, or is my concept of grace big enough to acknowledge the undeserved gift of a God who stays no matter what I can or can not contribute?
I think I care too much about being able to claim an orderly, neatly cleaned-up ending to look forward to.
I think I put too much weight on being able to speak from a place of healing and victory, or only being able to testify to God’s goodness in his deliverance.
I think I place my hope in a narrative of wholeness, with no cognitive dissonance, no reality of brokenness, no room for the messy of the right-now-already, instead of placing my hope in the God who holds it all in his hands and close to his heart in confident anticipation of the not-yet-resurrection.
Because who God is isn’t dependant on my ability to get out of bed.
God is still the embodiment of perfect goodness when I can’t shake the sadness.
God is still the One who provides when I can’t meet the deadlines.
God is still the strength of his people when my drivenness is missing in action.
God is still the God of peace that passes all understanding when my heart is overwhelmed.
God is still the God of all comfort when I am restless and fatigued and don’t quite know why.
God is still the One who heals, regardless of if I experience it fully this side of heaven.
Maybe this is grace: not how well I function, but who Jesus is.
Counterintuitive as it is when I am rolled tightly into fetal position, longing to be clothed in the ever-elusive gladness of Psalm 30, this is the hope I can cling to: Jesus is good, Jesus doesn’t need me to do anything for him to be good, and Jesus, in his goodness, will never leave.
In a season where I have isolated from many people because I’m embarrassed by my lack of ability to contribute what I perceive as things of value to the relationship, or people have pushed me away because of my shame-ridden neediness, or people I have trusted with my story are at places in their own stories that move them away geographically or relationally, there is specific hope in knowing that while I may not be promised an orderly ending in the already, I am promised a God who will never leave or forsake me — even though this sorrow may last.
On an especially numb day this week, a friend called for no other purpose than to be present.
“I’m sorry I’m not exactly conversational” I mumbled over the phone.
“Don’t feel like you have to say anything. Just know that I’m here. And I love you.”
Maybe that is the eccentric beauty of when depression collides with grace.
Not that I contribute or accomplish or produce or do or function properly…
But that Jesus is here…
And he loves me…
And that’s enough.
So tonight my prayers won’t sound like “take this pain away”.
They’ll sound more like “show me more of you. Help me know your heart. Let all that I am be wrapped up in who you are. And thank you, for being the God who stays.”