This morning I forced myself to go to the gym for the first time in 6 months. There was the tendonitis since August that prevented me, and just as I was starting to recover from that, I got a month-long bronchitis plus a few other infections. I suppose I should be glad they all came at once since I needed to be in bed anyway.
It’s hard to go back, isn’t it? But I got up early, dressed straight away in gym clothes, found the key cards – even turned the car in the right direction… And then I chanted to myself the whole way over, “I have to just go. I have to just go.” So I went. Only to find there was a van blocking the parking garage with no driver in it, and a guy behind me honking for me to move forward. I abandoned the cause and went home.
You’ve heard of walking pneumonia, right? You’re sick, but you can carry on as if you were well. You go to work, take care of your kids, run errands …
I figured out I must have something like that, only it’s walking depression. I’m perfectly functional, you see. Can get up in the mornings, cook dinner, take care of the family, shoulder responsibilities … but the zest is gone.
I don’t like to make small talk or be noticed in a crowd. I’m not motivated to start new projects. It takes an enormous effort to socialize. I even have trouble writing blog posts, unless it’s something impersonal like recipes.
I’ve been off medicine for a year and a half, and would kind of like to stay that way. I’d also kind of like to get my zest back. In the interim, I’m forcing myself to do things. Like going back to the gym when it requires being in public again. Here are some of the other things I’ve tried to do:
Join a group of English-speaking moms who plan to visit a new museum each month. I had to opt out of the first visit because my son was sick (and truthfully I, myself, wasn’t well enough to go yet).
Join an evening of karaoke with the moms in my town. The evening sold out before I could ascertain whether I was well enough, and as it turned out I wasn’t.
Join the English-speaking moms for a talk on health given by a local American doctor. I decided that the combination of just getting on my feet after being ill and it taking place in the evening, which is already hard for me, was too hefty a combination so I didn’t go.
Consider going to an upcoming meeting on improving our town. (Not sure yet. It’s in the evening).
Consider taking on a part-time subbing position at the local high school because they’re desperate for an English teacher, though I do prioritise my writing. (Still sitting on that one).
Driving to a nearby pony club for my son who would like to take a couple lessons during the school holidays, even though it means discovering new routes around the flooded areas of the Seine. I am going TODAY.
All this, and I have to really think through each and every new thing. Each thing requires investment and energy on my part, and I have to count the costs on whether I can overcome the mild depression and do it. Just writing requires investment and energy on my part. I force myself to sit down and get out 1000 words. While I’m producing them, I think, this is so boring, who would read it?
Only to go back later and say – okay yes, it’s a first draft, but it’s not awful. It’s just a first draft. It’s a lot easier to work with something on the page, than to stare at nothing. In all these things I have to keep going as if I had no “walking depression”. As if it were the natural thing to do.
Isn’t that sort of what faith is?
I recently read the scripture when Elijah was taken up into heaven. Before he left, he kept giving his servant, Elisha, the opportunity to give up or go away, but Elisha refused. They traveled to Bethel, then to Jericho, then to the Jordan, and three times Elijah said, “Stay here.” And three times Elisha refused. He said “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” It might have been loyalty, it might have been curiosity. But it required a certain degree of faith to go on.
And then this happened:
Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
Elijah had already had a divine encounter at Horeb, the mountain of God. He had already fought against the prophets of Baal – courageously, and with great faith. His faith was so great, perhaps his striking the Jordan was a natural thing to do. After all, he had already raised a boy from the dead. Parting a river was small potatoes. (These stories appear in 1 Kings 17, 18 and 19).
But that wouldn’t have been true for Elisha. Until now, he had only served Elijah. And, apart from offering up his old life as a sacrifice to serve the prophet (1 Kings 19:21), he had yet to claim his own faith.
Yet he answered Elijah with this:
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
“You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.
This is a poignant scene for me. It’s comforting to have people around who are heroes of the faith. It’s comforting to rely on their judgement in spiritual and worldly matters. But there comes a point when it’s just us and God. We need to walk out on a limb, go out on faith. Elisha had to keep going without his mentor:
Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over. (2 Kings 2:7-13)
You know that faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see. Sure, he saw God split the Jordan for Elijah. But who’s to say he would do it for him? Elijah could only act on faith, and so he did. Boldly.
What’s that phrase? Go big or go home.
Elisha knew his faith all came down to the Lord and His Name. If the Lord was with Elisha, He would part the river on Elisha’s faith. “Where now is God?” he asked. Elisha acted on faith, but he still needed to take that first step. He still needed to force it.
And God answered.
When I read this passage, it was like a wind of fresh, hopeful air blowing through my spirit, and this wind propelled me forward. I still have to force it. I need to go to that pony club (right after I hit enter on this post). I need to decide about subbing positions and evening get-togethers, which take me way out of my comfort zone. I need to continue writing that next book.
I look at each temptation to stay put. To not force myself to move forward. “Stay here,” the temptation says. It’s comfortable and you need not trouble yourself with any sort of effort. But still I put my foot forward and resist the pull to stay. As surely as the Lord lives and you live, I will go.
Then step by step I find myself on dry ground. Step by step I find myself on the other side of the river.