I wrestle with depression.
That’s not quite the right verb. I do battle.
And I have for years.
I win more than I lose. That’s good news.
Bottom line: this was not a good week for me. And I needed to tell you that upfront.
And because I believe that this week has been unsettling no matter who you are. Or for whom you voted.
Let’s unpack it.
By the time the election arrived, the campaign coverage was so saturated with bitterness and corrosive rage that we didn’t have space to find what we had in common. Both sides were fueled by fear of one another.
I know this: our spirits have taken a toll and been depleted. Here’s what happened… We demonized one another. Everyone was talking. But our hearts seemed to tell us, “No one is listening.” So, we dismissed one another. And when we feel dismissed, we are certain that we don’t matter any more.
Bottom line: We didn’t listen to one another.
I write this Sabbath Moment to find sanctuary and healing, knowing that it will impossible to heal, repair and transform our world if we live in fear, hatred, rage, or shock.
Henri Nouwen tells about his time with the community at L’Arche…
There is one of my friends who is quite handicapped but a wonderful, wonderful lady.
She said to me, “Henri, can you bless me?”
I remember walking up to her and giving her a little cross on her forehead.
She said, “Henri, it doesn’t work. No, that is not what I mean.”
I was embarrassed and said, “I gave you a blessing.”
She said, “No, I want to be blessed.”
I kept thinking, “What does she mean?”
We had a little service and all these people were sitting there. After the service I said, “Janet wants a blessing.” I had an alb on and a long robe with long sleeves.
Janet walked up to me and said, “I want to be blessed.” She put her head against my chest and I spontaneously put my arms around her, held her, and looked right into her eyes and said, “Blessed are you, Janet. You know how much we love you. You know how important you are. You know what a good woman you are.”
She looked at me and said, “Yes, yes, yes, I know.” I suddenly saw all sorts of energy coming back to her. She seemed to be relieved from the feeling of depression because suddenly she realized again that she was blessed. She went back to her place and immediately other people said, “I want that kind of blessing, too.”
I want that kind of blessing too.
We all need that kind of blessing. It will be paramount to our healing as a nation, as a globe. The good news is that this kind of blessing is alive and well inside of everyone one of us. Buried maybe. But still alive.
This blessing is not separate from our broken and anxious lives. No. It is in the very midst. The messy. The chaotic unknown. And we pass this blessing on to one another, even from our splintered and imperfect selves. I don’t have answers yet. Or great advice. But I needed a hug this week and someone gave me one. And now maybe I can give a hug too. And in that hug, know that there is a blessing. It makes sense to me that the word salvation, from the Latin “salve,” means a balm or ointment to heal.
We are none of us dispassionate witnesses.
We are pushed to be the change we desire, even though we feel lost at sea, with many of our guiding lights blackened out. Where is true North?
Now we must take the time we need to come home to ourselves, to dig deep to the core of our being, to find a depth of love and fortitude and courage and light that perhaps we did not know resided within us.
What is it that nurtures you?
Who helps you be your highest self?
Who provides you unconditional love?
Who makes you laugh?
Where do you go when you need to grieve?
What offers you the greatest solace?
Where do you receive and give blessings?
I so wanted to be profound this week. To say the right thing. And use big words. And invite generative thinking. But I had an epiphany in a Costco parking lot. Maybe it was an existential crisis. The weight of the week. The news still fomenting, and me, without a framework. Unmoored.
Running errands in Seattle, circling the crammed parking lot, racing like a bat-out-of-hell just to beat that young mom (with her two kids) in the Ford Explorer, to the space that took forever to empty because the lady had difficulty fitting 2000 rolls of toilet paper into the trunk of her car. And the Explorer pulls in as I’m daydreaming about making a bonfire out of the toilet paper. So I park at the far end of the lot, which is in another county, and walk through the rain, and forget my list—leaving it in my car. (Did I mention my lingering headache?) So I decide to walk around and people watch, and buy one jar of mixed nuts. Someone wise once said, “When in an existential crisis, buy mixed nuts.”
Try this — stand in line at Costco with only one item, and see the looks you get. “Is this it? Seriously?”
“No. But I can’t multi-task this week. So I’ll be back tomorrow for another item on my list.”
“Whatever.” And then I’m in another line, just waiting to exit Costco, so that I can walk miles back to my car. But at least I have mixed nuts to eat on the journey.
“Please. Go ahead.” I realize the woman ahead of me is talking to me. “Please. You look like you need a break today. I’m guessing; election stages of grief. Am I right? You go ahead.” (Does it have anything to do with the fact that a middle-aged man is lying in the fetal position on the floor of Costco?)
Here’s the deal: Her simple gesture struck me at my core. I didn’t know whether to hug her. Or just cry. So I did both. (Until the guy behind us said, “Hey, can you guys love on one another outside, we have to keep the line moving!”)
I know this: Kindness is not always the norm. And kindness takes us by surprise. Which makes it all the more powerful.
It is so easy to be overwhelmed when the world is sideways.
And so easy to forget that hope exists. Love exists. Kindness exists.
I want that kind of blessing too.
So I’m down. But I’m not out. Because now more than ever we need voices of sanctuary and hope and blessing.
I can’t pretend, or roll over and play dead and feel that it is business as usual. Something has been split open and exposed that was real, and has to be dealt with. And that requires compassion. Beginning with my self.
Be gentle with yourself today.
I could hunker down because I know how to do that. And I can let the despair get the best of me because I know how to do that too.
But this isn’t the time for any one of us to be trapped by fear, judgment, demonization or division.
So what am I going to do?
Tomorrow I will wake up
With my eyes open
I will do the good work of loving those whose paths I cross. Everyday.
I will write Sabbath Moment every week. For my own sanity. And because we need places to replenish. And heal. And rebuild.
I will fight for sanctuary for the broken and the lonely.
I choose to be a voice for compassion and mercy and second chances and healing and hope and grace and sanctuary and inclusiveness and restoration and kindness and bigheartedness.
I will remind us that…
None of the above is tied to a political party or a religion.
Join me every week.
Be a voice where you live.
Be the giver and dispenser of blessings.
And, in a shout out to Leonard Cohen (who died this week),
Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There’s a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in…
Because deep down there is a light that cannot be extinguished by hatred or judgment or cynicism or fear.
Because this is a time for storytelling and music and dancing and listening and joining together and being a presence for mercy and justice.
Sabbath Moment readers are Democrat and Republican. Christian and non-Christian. Catholic and Protestant. Jewish, Buddhist, and still searching. Straight, gay, lesbian, black, white, brown. And every single one with a heart. A heart that bleeds. And I wish for every one, a blessing.
I walked my garden. I talked to the flowers. And to the lone deer, still stuck inside our acreage. We call him Bubba. He’s plum tickled with fig leaves and leftovers. He doesn’t seem to care who won or who lost.
I raked leaves today. It’s what you do on rainy Sundays in November. Just before you watch the Seahawks on TV. And I’ll get ready for tomorrow night. The moon will be a super moon; unlike we have seen since the 1940s… Go out and let it do your heart good. And if you need to, it won’t mind if you howl at it.
Quotes for your week…
I did my best, it wasn’t much.
I couldn’t feel so I learned to touch
But I didn’t lie and I didn’t try to fool you
And even though it’s all gone wrong
I stand before The Lord Of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah. Amen.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. The Book of Philippians
Shout out to voices of reason and solace this week… Rev. Susan Sparks, Fr. Jim Martin, Cynthia Bourgeault, Fr. Richard Rohr, Jinks Hoffmann, Carol Kortsch, Garrison Keillor, Ed Kilbourne, David Brooks.
POEMS AND PRAYERS
The Place Where We Are Right
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.
by Yehuda Amichai
All vulnerable and merciful God,
We do not know what is ours to do.
We feel scared and alone today.
We are tired of taking sides.
We cannot hold any more fear or anger or rejection.
And yet we know so many of our friends feel unheard and unwanted.
Help us trust that no feeling is final,
And that YOU will have the full and final word.
If You are indeed a Suffering God, may we hold this suffering with You for those who voted for Hillary Clinton, for those who voted for President-elect Donald Trump, and for the many who have felt excluded by our politics in the many ways that we do indeed exclude.
We offer ourselves as best we can to hold this Love outward and open toward all, just as You never cease to do toward us.
We believe You are praying this prayer through us.
Fr. Richard Rohr