Elijah went a day’s journey in to the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” I Kings 19:4
I’m having an Elijah moment this morning, after being awakened from another vivid, disturbing dream about M by a whining three-year old. There’s no broom tree handy, so I’m sitting in my solitary favorite chair instead, saying to the Lord that I’ve had enough. I’m not wishing to die, or not exactly, though on days like this my first thought on waking is often, “I don’t want to live this day”.
And yes, before you freak out, I’ve talked to my therapist about this. I know that voice belongs to depression and that it is not to be heeded. Unfortunately, depression is the stage of grief I’m in (again). Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and it messed with me. My children were lovely for the most part, and I know I’m lucky to have them. But Mother’s Day was always a day on which M went overboard, showering me with gifts and appreciation, wrangling all the kids so I could read a book or take a nap. I ached for him yesterday in a visceral way. And I long for a life where holidays don’t have to be dreaded, where I have a partner in parenting, where there is space to be alone with my big and scary feelings.
“Enough with the grief, God” I pray today. “I’m in the wilderness of it and I don’t want to live this way anymore. I don’t want this life. So much that if I could do it without causing my children and my friends more pain, I would lay myself down and join my ancestors on the other side of eternity.”
In the days before I knew this grief, I would’ve told you Elijah was being dramatic. That he was hysterical and misguided. I might’ve rolled my eyes at him, or told him to buck up. Such behavior is unbecoming a prophet of the Lord!
Now I know differently. I know that when life has been too much for too long, it is normal to wish for it all to be over, to wonder if death wouldn’t be better. And I know that even though it’s normal, it’s also scary. Because while it’s a long way from such thoughts to actual death by suicide, it’s a step farther on that path than I ever wanted to be.
And I know it’s important to say these things aloud, because they only get bigger and scarier when I keep them inside. They only keep the shame spiral spinning, and allow it to do the same in others who think they are the only ones.
So I do what Elijah did. I cry out to the one who is always listening, who won’t be freaked out by my thoughts because They already know. I speak my depression’s truth to the one who meets me where I am, who accepts me as I am.
And God does the same for me that God did for Elijah. God sends the ministering angels ( in the form of friends and family usually) to remind me to get some extra sleep, get up out of bed even on this hard day and eat a healthy breakfast. Echoing the words of the Lord, my angels tell me its okay to take a nap later, to focus just on eating and drinking and sleeping for today. And often when I have rested and been fed, gotten up again and followed God’s lead, I too hear that still small voice. And so often it is says to me what it said to Elijah: You are not now, nor have you ever been, alone. And I will send you helpers to lighten your burden. This hard time will not last forever.
As I am comforted by my angels and my God, I am grateful to Elijah for his honesty. I am grateful to the ancient scribes for not editing his dark days out of the story. By his example, I am assured that even the most faithful ministers of God struggle with depression and suicidal ideation. I am reminded that God does not shy away from depression, but hovers near without judgement, offering what will strengthen and sustain Their people.
By Elijah’s witness, I am reminded that the journey does not end for me today. There is more that God is calling me to do, more that God is preparing to do that will need a witness, more that God will restore for my sake and the sake of all Their people.