January was dark this year.
Whether it was darker than usual I don’t know. But it was dark outside and in. Pitch-black mornings and drawn-in evenings. Sleeping for hours and hours and hours. Yet always tired.
A tiredness which is almost like an itch, a physical sensation, a mental weariness. No tears but a heart that couldn’t find its centre, a restlessness born of unpeace. Brain sluggish, memory inconsistent, concentration variable. Tired. So, so tired. And when negative thoughts came flooding through, though I knew what to do, there was no strength to do it. No resilience, all ability to bounce back lost. And did I say tired? So, so tired.
Yet I observed these symptoms which, as always in the winter, might be depression and might be SAD. I observed them almost as if from the outside. I didn’t feel sad, didn’t feel down more than very occasionally. Nothing like the debilitating emotional vortex that I can sometimes conjure up in the name of depression! I just watched as I displayed many of the classic symptoms of depression. I watched and waited. I felt becalmed. Powerless to make progress. Impotent to do anything other than drift.
Perhaps things really are changing for me these days. Perhaps I am learning to walk more by faith even in these times. Because I wasn’t too bothered by it all. Wasn’t too concerned or too desperate. Knew that this too would pass. That his promises for the things I am waiting on have been a whisper repeated over and over to me. That what he has begun he will complete. I knew that even in this he was at work, doing something which needed my stillness. (And maybe one day I’ll learn to choose stillness at those times but, until then, I rather suspect that he is willing to allow this thing which is heaviness to bring me to a juddering halt, that I might stop and let him.)
Late in the month I came across some words from Moltmann’s Theology of Hope. I was only chasing down a reference for a footnote. But as I read the pages around that reference, I found this:
The word of promise therefore always creates an interval of tension between the uttering and the redeeming of the promise. In so doing it provides man with a peculiar area of freedom to obey or disobey, to be hopeful or resigned.
And as I read, it reminded me that at times like this I have a choice. I always thought ‘living in the promise’ was about the experience of promise fulfilled, the not-yet come to the present. I probably need to blame a particular Hillsong number from the late 90s for teaching me that one! But I’ve come to see that maybe it doesn’t mean that, does it?
Living in the promise is living the in-between in ‘the faith that measures present reality by the standard of the word [of promise]’, rather than ‘in the doubt that measures the word [of promise] by the standard of given reality’ (also Moltmann, Theology of Hope).
It’s about living the present in light of the promised future rather than judging the future promise by present experience.
And, so, I have this peculiar freedom – gift, even – to be hopeful or resigned. I can fight the becalming, the sense of paralysis to make progress. Or I can embrace it, leaning into it and into the God whom I find there. I can judge the future by the state of present reality. Or I can measure my now by his not-yet.
I think I know what I want to do.
This is a post in my sabbatical series.