Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ministerial Blues

About a week before my ordination, I found myself in a deep, dark funk. I was days away from leaving for our big spiritual retreat, I was facing fun and joy in New York City, and all I could think about was how unfit I was for ministry.

The questions flew fast and furious through my brain. Who the heck did I think I was? What in the name of Pete was I doing? Me, a minister? Responsible for other people's problems and souls and hearts? I couldn't even find my way out of my own depression; how in the world was I going to manage to help someone else through their Dark Time?

Of course, the answers are a lot more complex than the questions (and admittedly, they're not exactly simple themselves!). There is a group of people that believe we can only help others if we have gone through the issues ourselves. In other words, my depression and angst was not (IS not) a drawback, but a plus, a positive thing. That said, I still struggle with the idea that my own depression sometimes debilitates me, and that makes it hard for me to be open and available to others. The big question, "Am I fit for ministering to others?" really does repeat in my head. Often.

Tonight, I find myself trying to claw my way out of a depression. I have plenty of reasons (excuses) for being down: our house still hasn't gone through, we're living in emergency housing, we're packed in like sardines until all the paperwork goes through, we have to try and keep two rambunctious five year olds quiet each evening, we're stressed and tired and hurting and short on cash, the days are long and the evenings too short, it's That Time of the Month, and I have a cold on top of all of it. Still, the point is not to let the reasons overwhelm my reason. I don't cease being a minister just because I'm depressed. Instead, I have to take the time to learn from my depression, to gain insights into how and why and where, so that when the time comes for me to help someone else through this, I can look into their eyes and hold their hand and say, "It's okay. We can survive this."

One of my  religious mentors has taught me a lot about depression. She suffers from it too, and there are times when I've seen her doubled over in the back of the church, praying that she'll get through the service. It never stopped her from holding my hand, though, and saying, "It's okay, we can survive this." When the inner pain rises and I have trouble seeing the light, I think of her and if I'm lucky I talk to her, and even though it doesn't make everything "alright" I am left with the knowledge that I will survive. It will get better.

I'm a minister. It's a verb, not a noun, at least the way I use it. That means I DO more than I AM, if that makes sense. When there is nothing else I can do, I put my hands together (or get on my knees or cover my hair, or whatever seems to fit the moment) and I pray. Sometimes when I pray, I pray about how ticked off I am that my gods would dare to inflict this iniquity upon me. As Mother Teresa supposedly said, "I know God won't give me more than I can handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much!" Other times I beg for relief, for the darkness to recede and the light to return. I even wallow in it, sometimes, taking time to sit on the Pity Pot and whine about "Oh Poor Me!" When I'm done... I stand up and thank my gods, and I do my best to get back to work.

So tonight, as I struggle to move past the inner darkness of the past few days, I will clasp my hands together and pray. Tonight is a good night - the storm is approaching outside, and the thunder is rolling over me. It helps that there is tension in the universe, almost as if it's alright for me to let go of mine, letting it disappear into that great morass of clouds and noise.

For all those who suffer from the heavy load of depression, know that we can survive this. It means a bit of time that isn't comfortable or happy, but we can make it through. Hold on, pray to your gods, and try to keep your nose above water. If you need to, talk to a therapist or minister or counselor, and know that we talk to OUR counselors, too. You are not weak; you are strong, even when (especially when) you don't realize it.
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