Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Seasons

The other day I was sitting in the den looking out the sliding glass door. It was an emotionally difficult day and I was feeling rather depressed. As I was staring at the leaves that had fallen on to the deck, I could identify with their condition deep within my soul. I told the Lord, "I feel like those leaves, shriveled up and lifeless." Sadly, Christians often are scandalized with the thought of putting depression and Christian in the same sentence. As Author Jim Palmer states in his book entitled "Divine Nobodies", "You're not supposed to be depressed if you are a Christian. After all, it's "non-Christians" who are the miserable ones needing to see our ecstatic, smiling, problem-free faces and hear our radical stories if they are ever to find Jesus. You're never going to grow a church with a bunch of despondent people moping around!"  Mr. Palmer himself went through a deep depression and points out that the church often doesn't allow for us to be real with our brokenness. He states,"Many times I have been in this condition at church when someone asked how I was doing, and I replied, "Fine." I've responded like this so many times, one day I decided to look it up. To be "fine" is to be "optimally functioning with freedom from disease or abnormality." So my answer is a bald-faced lie. But after all, lying seems to be consistent with church rules of engagement---pleasant questions, pleasant answers, even if they are untrue." I can identify with what Jim Palmer is saying.  I had nothing to really offer to the Lord so I asked for a word from Him. The Lord spoke through the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and the meditation from the booklet "Our Daily Bread" which surprisingly was focused on the same Bible passage. The passage from Ecclesiastes is very familiar to many people as a rock group called the Byrds popularized it in the 60's. The song went, "To everything turn, turn, turn, There is a season turn, turn, turn, And a time to every purpose under heaven." The song then proceeded like the Bible passage to lay out the high and lows of those seasons. God drew my attention to those shriveled leaves to remind me that just as the meteorological seasons change  the typical flow of our lives also have their seasons. The author of the meditation in "Our Daily Bread"states, "We do a disservice to ourselves and others when we portray the Christian life as peaceful and happy all the time. Instead the Bible portrays the believer's life as consisting of seasons of ups and downs." The author concludes with this thought, "Every season needs faith to get us through it." It is faith that calls me to trust in the Lord even in the seasons of despair. Faith says it is O.K. to feel like a shriveled up leaf because there will be another season of hope and new life. God allows us joys as well as sorrows to draw us closer to Him. In fact Jim Palmer used to be ashamed of his depression but states that he now sees it as a "trap door to God." When it hits and he finds himself sinking into a "black hole", he often finds Jesus there. Mr. Palmer says, "I acquired in seminary a lot of theologically correct answers to the question of who Jesus is....But now when I am asked, I am most inclined to say, "Jesus is the one who sits down close to me in my black hole of despair, offering himself until it passes. In some strange way, even though my black hole remains, I'm starting to really know Jesus, and knowing him makes me feel whole." Perhaps knowing Jesus better is less about pretending and more about moving through the reality of the seasons in our lives. And being aware that in every season, God's divine love holds us, and that awareness brings healing and a sense of wholeness.
In His Love,
Pastor Sheree

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