Lately, I’ve been finding myself wondering when things will go back to normal, only to find that I can’t remember what normal is. I remember that I haven’t always suffered from depression – at least not in the same way – but I can’t tell you what I was like before. So how will I know if I’m better?
It doesn’t help that the current me doesn’t make much sense. I’ve barely been able to stand going to church this year. I can’t tell if it’s the sermons or the process or the people. I enjoyed it during the early part of last year – before I took ill. I don’t remember what it was like during the fall and winter. But I do know that it’s been a pain since my pastor began the new year with his ‘State of the Church’ address. Every once in a while, I wake up on Sunday with the motivation to go to church, and every once in a while, I don’t feel miserable during the sermon. I don’t know if it’s the topic or the preacher or me.
Sunday School is a different matter. I’ve never been fond of sitting in small groups talking about my feelings and my relationship with God. To put it bluntly, I don’t really care about those stuff. But it’s been worse lately. I just haven’t been able to make myself do it. The idea of going there makes me feel sick. I avoided small group Bible study through the fall and spring semesters, but I still attended Sunday School. Lately I’ve found it impossible. As I sit waiting for it to start, I feel worse and worse until I just have to leave. In the best case scenario, I sit apart from the group with a book or game so that I can listen if I want to, but I don’t participate. But it’s usually the case that by the time the clock strikes 11, I’ve worn out my resolve.
I’ve considered the possible causes: from the nature of the teaching (which is theologically sound, but very mushy), to the people (I’ve never met a sweeter group of people). What I think is that it’s usually a combination of three things:
a. I don’t care for the mushiness: I’ve never been fond of feelings. They’re uncomfortable, untrustworthy things and they play games with you. In much of what I do, I try to give my feelings as little influence as possible. Some things don’t disturb me. Talking about the love of God, for instance, is something you cannot do without using emotion-invoking pictures. But I get really upset when it feels like emotions are intruding where they have no business.
b. I don’t care about the topic: I love church – as long as we’re talking about God. I don’t care what we say about him. I’ll talk about his greatness or his nature or praise him and I’ve feel great doing it. But once we start talking about How God loves us or our relationship with him or what we should do as Christians, I get restless. I know those things are necessary, so I can stand a certain amount of it, but only in the right emotional state. And my emotional state hasn’t been right in a good while. And that’s why the third explanation is the most important
c. I just don’t feel well: a and b have always been true about me. I manage them as best as I can. But when I don’t feel like moving or speaking or doing anything, breaking into groups to talk about how God is working in our lives is just plain terrifying. The thought of it makes me want to be anywhere else.
So, as Sunday approaches, as it does every week, I find myself thinking of ways to motivate myself. So far, I’ve been doing well. I’ve probably missed only two or three Sundays in the last two months. I’ve used everything from ‘they might have pancakes’ to ‘Today might be the Lord’s Supper’ and ‘Maybe I’ll like the sermon’. But I sometimes feel hopeless. I used to love going to church; now I just dread it. How will I live like this if things don’t return to normal?
And what is normal?
I now remember how I get through times like this. I have someone who finds the answers to all the problems that plague me. I just lay them at his feet. And remembering that makes me feel better. Maybe I don’t know how this is going to turn out, but it doesn’t matter because I have my God. And I have peace, I don’t find any other way.