We’re lumps of emotion tied up in dodgy logic, are we not? Well, I am. And that means that sometimes, not often, the day is strangely down, so that it’s hard to lift my voice and even pretend enthusiasm or find anything to talk about. It’s pointless feeling guilty about it. It’s a thing. Like Tuesdays and paying taxes. It comes around and shouldn’t surprise us, but somehow it always does.
Living alone makes it harder because we can slip into it without even knowing, but it makes it easier too, because we don’t drag anyone else down with us while we wait for the lumpiness to pass. We know it will. We’ve been here before and the sadness or despair doesn’t last for ever. We feel down but we know it’s just a feeling, and not a truth.
And there are a few things that help to kick those blues into touch . You think I’m going to bang on again about quiet time on the beach, don’t you? Well, I’m not. Strangely, walking in the waves and looking up into the blue sky (I’ve actually and literally cricked my neck this week) and gazing at the picture-book perfect hills dotted with sheep, and all that rural malarkey, isn’t any help at all if I’m already down-in-the-dumps. The beauty and whispering waves and the wheeling birds serve only to underline the ineffable sadness of being. Many people have used that phrase, and it sums up the whole damn emotional mess of being human. The word ‘ineffable’ means ‘too extreme or intense to be described in words’ so I won’t even try.
Sometimes we’re just bloody well sad because we’re bloody well sad and there simply ain’t no rhyme or reason. Mind you, looking around just now we can find a few reasons, eh? Fires and floods and wars and a pandemic and inflation and old men making a mess of the world. And that’s just the national stuff, not the cultural and personal. I think of these things as a sort of wallpaper, a background to our feelings, but not the cause. We are vulnerable to sadness simply because we are human, and we are emotional and we are heirs to a thousand natural shocks (I’m borrowing from everyone today). And then, of course come the personal and historic reasons for sadness, and we can find ourselves back in the grief of loss, missing those we love.
Anyway, my friends, yesterday was fine but today was a sad and down day for me. ‘Was’. So, am I out of that hole or still there, still sinking into the mire? I think I’m clambering out. Clumsily and with a lot of huffing and puffing but out I come. How? Pin back your lug’oles, and I’ll tell you:
I finished reading Galatians yesterday and if I had read on this morning, turning to the next page, I would have come to Ephesians, and I know that this epistle is full of encouragement and reminders of God’s grace, and fabulous prayers, right enough, but somehow I didn’t have the oomph. Paul can be a bit relentless when you’re feeling ragged and a bit fragile. I wanted something even more personal, even more accessible, even more…. something. I wanted to know, in my bones, that I was not alone, and that someone cared. One of the hard things about being single is the knowledge that you will never again be anyone’s priority, there will be no more meaningful hugs, that so- precious hand will never rest in yours again….. and at the moments when this hits home you don’t want to wallow, to sink into self pity, you want to accept the facts but simultaneously deny the loneliness. Yes, you’re alone, but you’re also not alone. You’re loved whether you feel that you are, or not. You’re OK. You’ll do. OK, you long for the personal, for a hand in yours and, yes, that’s hard, but – come on Luce – it’s not unbearable. It’s no good staying where you find yourself – move on! Does that sound like an internal bickering match? A bit of a ding-dong? It is.
So this morning, needing the person of Christ, instead of dutifully stepping again into Paul’s diligent teaching, I turned back to the Gospels and came face to face again with the gentle, strong and unwavering simplicity of Jesus.
There you go! There you jolly well go. Fabulous. The Gospel of John.
I read as far as the Samaritan woman at the well, and it was a balm to my soul (not a magic wand, I wasn’t suddenly transformed into Pollyanna or Forrest Gump). But I saw the dusty road, the tired man, the veiled woman…. I was that woman, hungrily asking her questions, wondering at this weary man … and the reading became an oasis, a real refreshment. A reminder that I have the Living Water, the eternal gift, from a loving God. Really, a balm.
But sadness is tiring, we forget that feeling depressed is exhausting, and I was still a bit flat and ‘ineffably sad’ a few hours later when I went out to lunch with two friends, so that I wasn’t really with them – I was standing about ten feet away, watching the three of us, a witness not a participant. Wrapped up in my own thoughts, still there with the Samaritan woman…. imagining the sound of the Aramaic that Jesus spoke, the excitement of that woman running back to her village, all shame gone, telling everyone about the Jewish teacher who had so shockingly spoken to her!
Lunch was good and we sat in the shade, looking out at the wonderful view bathed in sunlight, three women of ‘a certain age’, patient with each other, and secretly rejoicing that we didn’t have to cook or wash up.
When I came home this afternoon, I couldn’t wait to get back into the Gospels and to read on, up to the feeding of the five thousand, and I want to know this – answers on a postcard please – how is that even when we know a story inside out, every word, when we could retell it in every detail, how is that, even then, we can discover something new and wonderful? The Gospels are so very very special. There’s an unarguable truth in the accounts we’re given, a simple retelling of events, and in that simplicity and openness, nothing clever or skewed or manipulative, the invitation and promise of Jesus Christ is overwhelming. No clever marketing men back then, no crafty algorithms to lure us in. Just truth. And today, reading it for the umpteenth time, it came alive, I was there with the disciples (probably more present than I was at lunch with my poor pals) and when Jesus said “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Wowser! I mean, really, wham! It just hit me. It just bloomin’ hit me. The miracle of Christ, the gift of faith, the sheer excitement of eternal truth.
The new thought for me was of the woman running back to share her news, her scandalous wondrous, amazing news. All her shame forgotten. Five husbands ? Pah! So what? All done and dusted. There she was full of life and energy and bursting with good news. The dusty thirsty man, a man with no riches, no earthly power or standing, had done this. Had done what only God can do. No wonder she was bursting to tell everyone.
How are the blues tonight? Lurking, but not winning. By tomorrow morning they’ll be sent packing.
So. I reckon there are a few ways I can emerge from the blues – read the Word of God, devour it, dig into it. Enjoy the company of patient friends. Have some chips. Sit in the shade and watch families in the sun. Write a blog Have a glass of wine. Remember to say my night prayers. Ask God if he thinks I’m very barmy or just a bit cuckoo.
Life is good. Eternal life is amazing. Taste it. Fabulous.