loss as gain.
prayer as losing (anger, pride, fear), and therefore gaining.
letting go, giving up, giving all.
these sorts of phrases dotted the sermon this morning at Greyfriars. In a tangential way, I felt a making sense of things begin somewhere deep within.
Sometimes, well, usually, there is something that triggers a downward trajectory for me. Stress, lack of sleep, grief, exhaustion, worry: and they usually all circle around each other like a pack of scavenging crows over a weak and vulnerable animal.
The money situation got really bad, reaching the point I was afraid it would. What steps I have been taking to avoid that point are yet to bring any physical income, and they may, even then, not bring in enough. This made me quite scared, anxious, worried. Cripplingly so.
Was the dream over? Would I have to go home? What more, what else could I do?
The constant searching for income is even more exhausting than juggling shifts, storytelling and study. To have to have a mind always on where the money will come from causes stress and anxiety to debilitating levels. Then the work for which I came here began to suffer. I was trying to write a very important paper, and the words had all escaped me. Depression makes me dull-headed, I can't think, I can't concentrate.
I sacrificed a lot, worked very hard, and a lot of other people did too, in order for me get to Scotland and further my skills and experience as a storyteller/poet/minister with a gift to offer the church. I began to feel the pressure of not wanting all that effort to be wasted.
The pressure just about broke me.
As I sat there this morning, I began to wonder if I had allowed stress and worry to cause me to forget that I do trust in the Divine; I trust that this is the right path for me, and when I lean into the Spirit with trust, I am usually OK.
It is a difficult, complicated tightrope, the giving up of self, the giving one's all, when you have given so much that you begin to crumble. To break open.
Then I remembered my reflection - the very words I myself spoke - presiding at communion this week. The seed must break open, must die, to become the life that is its fullest potential. I asked what needs to break open in our world, or for ourselves, in order for the fullness of hope and love to grow.
Have I, in anticipation of the dangers, the consequences of running out of money, drawn a barricade or a protective shell around myself, and thus limited my own potential, limited God's potential to move in and through me? I wonder.
Have I been holding on too tight, trusting too little? Would letting go of control bring about the paradoxical goal for which I am striving? I am not one to pray to God to fix my problems and sit back and wait for the miracle to happen around me. I understand God to be inviting humanity into partnership, a partnership of mutuality in which humans both rely on God to be God, and also have responsibility to do what is ours to do. The cliche about God helping those who help themselves is a bit of an oversimplification, but there's something in it, even so.
But did I take too much responsibility for the solution? Could letting go, swallowing pride and putting my hand out yet again, actually be the breaking open towards something richer than I could have imagined?
A thought began to form this morning, that putting my hand out again, in the form of the patreon site that invites people to pledge financial support for my creative work (which I resisted because it feels like I am forever asking others for money), might actually lead me into a more productive season of creativity, with goals and deadlines I am setting for myself. The discipline I will need in order to produce work of both the quantity and quality I demand of myself as one supported in this work by others and their hard-earned money, is something that has eluded me without such impetus. I might break open into greater vulnerability, and it might hurt, but I may also grow into a better artist, a fuller potential I have not imagined for myself.
It is important to remember that there is a breaking that I do not believe God desires or demands. The kind of breaking of depression at its worst is not life-giving, is too risky for God to ask that of us. My experience of God is that God's movement is always towards the healing and restoring of our fulness of being, our well-being.
So I am not envisaging the depression as the breaking open. The breaking open I think may be necessary for me is the making myself vulnerable, the breaking of my pride and independence, the breaking open towards trust in God.
I don't know.
I feel as though I am still in the midst of it, the experience, the breaking, the questions.
being called to let go.
in order to grow.