I’ve just recently come out of a funk. If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety or depression, you’ll know what I mean by this. My friend Robyn calls it my “black cave of darkness”. She says watching me go in there is the hardest part of being friends with me (EDIT: I called and read this to Robyn tonight when I finished and she wants to go on record as saying “I never said it was HARD to be friends with you!”) But it is. I know it is. It’s because when I’m there, I don’t realize it. I don’t know I’ve retreated again. My brain has some sort of cave-amnesia until something happens and suddenly I jolt awake thinking, “Where am I? Why is it so dark in here? What’s going on and where is my phone charger? OMG am I in a CAVE? OHHHH…. I did it again. Crap.” I know this about myself. I know the cave is there. But, somehow, every time I journey into the nothingness, I’m surprised. I reemerge and CAN NOT believe I’ve been back in the cave again.
And I’ve been wanting to talk about the cave. Because I know I’m not the only one. And I’ve been praying, asking God to give me a picture of what it looks like when depression hits and what does He have to say about it all?
I was walking through an antique store this morning and ventured down the stairs to a lower level with double doors leading to a patio. I heard the birds as soon as I reached the steps, but I didn’t see them until I rounded the corner. There was a scuffle, a flutter of wings and I saw two birds fly away. And then there, amidst a dozen or so vintage glasses, I saw a tiny sparrow struggling to get free. Somehow she’d fallen down the long, narrow channel of the tumbler and was straining to fly out. As I looked at her, I saw myself so many times before. Panicked. Struggling. Unable to fly. But surrounded by my flock.
I was so amazed at the other birds. One stayed on the table, inches from her reach. Two others hopped frantically on a shelf below and the rest flitted around the rafters of the musty basement. All of them were chirping. Each time she’d attempt to escape, she would become very very still, trying to muster up the energy she’d need for the fight. And then she’d cry out in effort and fear and ultimately frustration, powerless to escape. Yet, her flock looked on. And the harder she struggled, the louder they became, shrieking and squawking and cheering her on.
Once I realized that she wouldn’t be able to get free on her own accord, I stepped in. I picked up the glass and ever so slightly tipped it to the right, shifting gravity, tilting her tiny body. It didn’t take much at all, maybe an inch. That’s all she needed. She shot out of the glass, her wings flapping awkwardly, and landed with a thud on the ground below.
Maybe that’s you today. Maybe you’re in the tribe. Maybe it’s your friend or sister or mom stuck down in that glass. Maybe you feel helpless watching them fight, wondering your role. Listen to me, dear one. You have a big job. God Himself sings over us. Zephaniah 3:17 says “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” It is holy work, the staying and the singing. You may not be the one to tip the glass for her this time, but oh, how she needs you to stay. Just stay with her. And you can trust God to do his job. To send a glass-tipper when it’s time.
Or maybe you’re the sparrow stuck in the glass. Maybe you’ve given up on fighting. You see the open air above you, but you just can't seem to get out. And you’re tired. So very tired.
You don’t have to do this alone. Your tribe will not leave you. Can’t you hear them? They are calling out to you. While writing this, I was reminded of the verse in Matthew that says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Don’t you give up… Help is on the way. Someone is coming to tip your glass, to shift the things you cannot control and help you find your way. I know it feels like you're here to stay, at the bottom of this smelly old glass. But you aren't. I promise.
She limped a bit at first, visibly tired and hindered by her time in confinement. Her flock whooshed in though, flanking all sides, their tinny victory cries bouncing off the dusty glassware around us. Then all of a sudden in one effortless motion, she shot into the air.
She remembered she could fly.
And I watched, as one by one, the other birds fell into formation behind her, and they all flew out the open doors into the dewy morning air.