Thursday, November 10, 2016

Pushing Away the Dark

As many of you know (and to the consternation of many) I am one of those awful, terrible breed of people who (Gasp! Horror of horrors!) begins to listen to Christmas music early.

Whenever anyone has chosen to engage me in discussion about this topic rather than simply expressing their disgust (similar to the surprisingly intense disdain of many for Pumpkin Spice Lattes--another aversion that I simply don't understand) I've told them that a lot of it has to do with my struggle with depression.

For those of you who don't know, depression is more than just feeling sad. When depression hits, it's an overwhelming, overbearing sense of dread, or hopelessness, or darkness, for little to no reason. Since there's no direct reason for it (sometimes something can trigger it, but that's different than being its cause) you can't you can't take the usual, logical tact of dealing with or fixing the issue. There IS no "issue"--only heartache.

Everyone develops their own way of dealing with it when depression hits. I find that the best way for me is to push out the sense of gloom and doom (glib, I know, but descriptive) with the opposite. Things that bring me joy, and purpose, and a sense of peace. Making the things in my life that represent those feelings bigger and louder and more prominent than that explainable darkness. And as a pastor--as a Christian--I've spent my whole live conditioning myself to associate this season and all its trappings with those feelings. So when I hear "Greensleeves" or "Jingle Bells" or see a string of colored lights, it soothes my soul in a way that few things can.

(For the record, this is liturgically repugnant. Most theologians insist on sticking to Advent themes and music before December 25--the first day of the Christmas season--recognizing, correctly, that jumping to the conclusion before the journey and anticipation and longing robs Christmas of its significance. I agree. This just goes to show how profound the darkness of depression can be that the need to combat it overrides my theological sensibilities.)

The reason I bring this up today (other than the fact that Andrew and I had the following conversation today, shouted between our offices: "Are you listening to Christmas music?" "Maybe..." "UGH.") is because I've been reflecting on how many people's feelings following this election seem to mirror my own experience of depression very closely. And while in this case, we need to recognize the pain and to allow time to grieve and process, we also need to push out the bad parts; the insults, the name-calling, the refusal to listen to the other side. This is the darkness that we're fighting against now.

 As I was getting dressed this morning (I've been putting off laundry for too long, so my options were somewhat limited) I came across a shirt that said "Peace, Love, & Joy" in sparkly rhinestones (it's a lot more subtle and tasteful than it sounds). My first thought is, "I can't wear that; it's a Christmas shirt!"

But after about 3 seconds of deliberation, I decided that it was EXACTLY what I needed to wear today, into this world that is still reeling and healing. These are not "Christmas Ideas" that we only roll out when the weather turns cold and our schedules get busy. These are words that represent what God wants us to pursue every single day. Sometimes, they're easier to find and feel than others. But just because we're not expressing them in a way that's socially deemed "seasonally appropriate" doesn't mean that we should stop expressing them. 

There's a lot of darkness in the world right now, no matter which side of the political aisle you're on. We have a lot of work to do to combat that darkness. How you do that SHOULD NOT MATTER, as long as it's done with the goal of Peace, Love, and Joy.


(For the record, peace, love and joy are not antithetical to justice, anger, and righteousness. Justice, anger, and righteousness can be godly vehicles for change, but not if they're driven by hate. When we put peace, love, and joy in the driver's seat, we can make great things happen with some very difficult and uncomfortable feelings.)

(Also, remember that "joy" doesn't mean happiness. It means a deep, profound sense of being filled with goodness and potential for flourishing--the Greeks called it "eudaimonia". This is how, according to my argument, you can feel both anger and joy simultaneously.)

(Okay, I'm done now. For real.)

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