Recovery

There is always something else that needs to be done. This is particularly true in my job as I make my own schedule. You would think this would leave me with a lot of free time to relax, watch tv, read, etc. And I do take time to do all of these things. However, I have to make myself take that time. At any given moment in my life there is something that needs to be done. Papers to grade, announcements to post, discussion boards to reply to, blog posts to write, stories to write, something to clean, etc, etc, etc. Sometimes I’d swear that I’m as busy as I was in grad school. Given, a lot of these are activities that I choose to take on, but then, isn’t this true of most of the things we do in life? When there is always something to do, you have to make time to waste.

This is difficult for a lot of us. I know that, the way I was raised, wasting time was a bad thing. It was bad to relax, bad to have fun, bad to waste time. I grew up with the irrefutable knowledge that you always have to be doing something productive. So far today I’ve graded several papers, responded to about a hundred discussion board posts, had three meaningful conversations, met a new roommate to show him around, co-taught an Aikido-Jiujitsu class (back breaks… yay), written one blog post, and obviously I’m in the process of writing another. In between that I made dinner and found an hour to lie on the floor thinking about nothing. I’m sure a lot of you have busier schedules, but I wouldn’t call this an unproductive day.

That being said, we need time to recover. Whether this is recovery time from stressful ministry, from work, from simple stresses in life like moving or fighting with family members, or recovery from physical injuries (I think I mentioned the other day that I’ve managed to injure several joints in the past week), we all need downtime to rest, relax, heal, and spend time with God. See, God knows this. It’s probably why he required the Jews to take a sabbat. It’s definitely why he required biblical characters like Elijah, David, Paul, or even Christ to rest.

A good work ethic is a wonderful thing, but it can also be incredibly destructive. Physical injuries are probably the most potent reminder of the need to rest. While it’s important to be able to play (or fight) injured in the clinch, people who train while injured are stupid. They often wind up injuring themselves worse, and inevitably take longer to heal, and don’t heal as well. Trying to hike on a sprained ankle, or do kata on a broken leg is just plain dumb. That being said, I walked two miles in the rain yesterday… I think I should probably take my own advice.

The heart needs time to heal as well. Sometimes this manifests as a desire for singleness, sometimes as fear, sometimes as bitterness against the opposite sex (not the best manifestation possible), but all of these can simply be an injured heart needing time to heal and become whole. More than this, however, our heart’s need to rest in Christ. There are times when stress just won’t go away, when pain doesn’t stop, when it’s not what we are inflicting on ourselves, but what others are inflicting on us that is keeping our recovery at bay. At these times, it helps to have a resting place in Christ, a place of peace that doesn’t depend on circumstances. That’s the peace we’re promised.

Resting in Christ has nothing to do with circumstances and everything to do with the direction of our hearts, and that something that is worth relearning over and over… and over and over and over.

Down Days

Sometimes I just feel down. I have no actual reason for feeling down, nothing is going wrong, and I have plenty of things to be thankful for, but I still feel down. I have to admit that I don’t particularly like these days. They tend to come and go in clumps, and I seem to be in the middle of a clump of them right now. Here’s the other thing though: there’s nothing wrong with feeling down. It’s natural. More natural for some than it is for others, but it’s still natural.

There is a significant movement within American Christianity that would have you believe that depression, in any form and to any degree, is a spiritual malady brought on by demonic possession or sin, and sometimes this is true. There are certainly spiritual reasons for depression, and I’ve had times when a vast depression came upon me that was clearly a spiritual attack. I can remember one night, I was supposed to have a spiritual meeting the next day, when I was suddenly overcome by the absolute certainty that my life was meaningless and no-one would ever love me. I remember spending about two hours curled up in a ball on my bed, wracked with depression, doubt, and thoughts of self-loathing, desperately calling out to God to help me, because I was certain that this was a spiritual attack. After a time, and just as suddenly as the fit of depression came on me, it disappeared, leaving me calm, confident, and at peace. …My current depression is nothing like that.

There are other people who would have you believe that depression is never acceptable, even when there are good reasons for that depression. Consider the story of Elijah’s depression in 1st Kings 19, or the story of Job… the entire book really. Both Elijah and Job have very good reason to be depressed. Elijah had just watched the entire nation of Israel see the clearly expressed power and authority of God, and still decide to reject him. Oh… and he also had the queen of Israel and, you know… her army trying to kill him. Job only had everything he owned destroyed, all of his children killed, and his wife decide that she hated his guts. I mean, really, I can see why Christians would use them as examples of the horrible sinfulness of depression and how no one should ever feel that way…

I really hope the sarcasm came through in that paragraph. Elijah and Job both had good reasons to be depressed, and yet so often we use them as examples of people who ‘weren’t focused on God’ or who ‘abandoned the blessings of God’. This is complete crap, as God’s response to both of them shows us clearly. God does not berate them for their depression, although he does lay into Job for challenging his justice. God does not tell them to get up and be happy. Nor does he tell them that by being depressed they have lost their focus on him, or that they are horrible. He doesn’t tell them to be joyful, or to ‘get over it’. Instead, he simply reminds them who he is, and gives them something to do. He gives Elijah a series of simple tasks to do before finding his successor, and he commends Job and commands him to pray for his friends.

There are good reasons to be depressed, and there are bad reasons to be depressed, but either way depression is still natural, and moving through it is the only way out of it. Speaking of which… I’m actually feeling pretty good now.