She sits crisscrossed on the bed next to me. Tears have trailed down, dampening my pajama top, and it’s her tiny hands with the chipped sparkly polish that push back my greasy hair and grasp at my cheeks. She turns my head to face her, still clutching softly with her fingers. “I’m sorry you’re hurting so much, mommy.”
And my heart breaks anew.
Tears keep flowing and I murmur thanks for her prayers over me, even as I curse the need for them.
She is seven.
This is not the first time she has seen me sink low, disappear, lose myself. Wrap down into blankets piled heavy and sob into my pillow like some abandoned child or gaze at the wall blankly.
Only my three-year old is immune to mommy’s depression. He demands waffles from me and I drag my body from bed and walk dazed down the stairs to pull them from the freezer and pop them in. My kids have fended for themselves this morning and the sink is piled with dirty dishes, crusted with dried cereal and pancake syrup.
And I am just waiting for a moment to break into pieces.
I have to schedule it for next week because this one has to be finished. I have commitments and even as I say no to more and more, life goes on. I have lesson plans to pull together, cookies to bake and bring for my daughter’s American Heritage Girls meeting, when I will try to smile and slip my unwashed hair under a hat and navigate my way through the day. And right now that is a small grace, that I can still pull together long enough to make it through the day, waiting for a time when I can break again.
I don’t always love this God who seems to continually strip me bare. Who drags me down to this pit and seems to abandon me to faulty ground, ever sinking.
But if I’m completely honest, I will say that I still believe. I do. That in this place both familiar and fearful, I praise with both hands lifted. What else can I do but surrender? My own frailty strips me down to my barest parts and all I can offer is my worship believing that mercy will come.
There is no fight left in me.
This is where I mourn and cry out, my life soiled by invisible sackcloth and ashes. I wonder what it would be like to tear at my clothes, collapse into a heap and allow my heart to wail unrestrained by the confines of social norms and the need for continuity and containment.
I would be a madwoman, beating at my breast and lamenting the suffering of my first world problems, even as I sit comfortable in my American made luxury.
Instead, I sit in my counselors office. It’s the second time I’ve seen her and I can’t remember her name. Something that starts with an M. Melissa? Melanie? She has a calendar on her wall of a Schnauzer. I think that’s what they’re called. I wonder if she owns a Schnauzer or if it’s one of those dog of the month calendars and next month could be Huskies or a Weimaraner. I’ll probably never know since this is December and the calendar is probably on its last month. Other than that, the office is sterile and devoid of any personality.
On our first appointment, she went over the questionnaire. Do I have a drug or alcohol problem? Am I homeless? Am I in a situation where I fear for my safety? Am I being abused? No, to all of the above.
I am safe and loved. I say it out loud. She writes it down.
I know they see a lot of hard cases but I am not one of them. I talk about my faith and its importance to me, even as I feel it failing. Everything could be so much worse and in a way that makes me despair all the more.
I have counted gifts, blessings from God, small things and big things. I have searched them out like treasures on my path. I have staked my heart in joy. Do I count this too?
She makes quick notes on her clipboard. She asks more questions and I want to prove to her that I am ok, that there isn’t any crazy in me. That I am whole.
I hate my own weakness.
This is not the woman I can be. This is not my full God potential with my gifts and talents and passion.
This is a shell of that woman now shattered and broken. How can this be what God wants for me?
How can I bring glory to Him when I can’t even mother my own children well? When I am not depressed, I can do so much. Why won’t God let me stay there?
And yet, I believe it is His hand that brings me to this place again and again. My thorn piercing flesh, drawing out my pain, lodged deep.
And I ask myself, is depression a curse or a conduit?
Because in my most desperate moments, my heart untethered by my will or my work, I am wide open to God. Tears that never come, flow freely and often. And maybe, in all of this, that is the grace of it.
Maybe when I worship with both hands lifted open and the tears flowing down, it is not the praise of a madwoman but one utterly desperate for Him. And maybe that is the gift of suffering.