Jumping into holes

I am ill. Sitting in my bed, and feeling thoroughly sorry for myself. These moods take over on a regular basis but are made considerably worse by the discomfort caused by an unhappy tummy, a throbbing head and scratchy throat.

So, last night I sat down to chat with my lovely Mr Mike and Chris Russell (wonderful man, writer of this brilliant book – well worth a read!). I like the way he speaks of God, it is somehow relatable in a world that just does not ever seem to make sense. While we were chatting he told me that someone had once told him, that the best way to save someone drowning in quick sand is to jump into the hole with them, to push against them and create a vaccum, this means you can both climb out. It doesn’t really matter if this is true or not, what matters is the image that this creates.

You see, I am an idealist. I don’t think I had ever fully realised the extent of this until recently, I knew it was there, but I was deluded. It is in the last couple of weeks that I realised, life is never going to be easy. There will be occasions when it will be easier than it has been, but there will never be a time in my life when there will not be at least one relationship, somewhere in my life, that is going through a rocky/distant/less than ideal patch. There will never be a time where every single aspect of my life is going perfectly, or a time when my character is so graceful and loving and wonderful, that I won’t get grumpy when I don’t get my way, that I will forgive with ease, and that really my super duper holiness will make the rest of life and all its bumps less traumatic and much simpler.

This realisation hurts. I can’t really hide it. I have known the realities of life for a long time. It is hard, but I guess a part of me was really just holding out, waiting for that time when life will get easier. Now please don’t misunderstand me, this is not a hopeless cry at the state of the world. Life in my experience, works in peaks and troughs and there are bound to be times in my life when I find things significantly easier than I do right now. This is merely a statement of shock at my own belief that at some point I was bound to end up living the dream, blissfully happy, trauma free and content.

I am not entirely sure when this bliss was due to arrive, as I can’t imagine marriage to be without argument or trouble, children to be without any difficulty, job to never cause me upset, or friendships to always run without a hitch. However, believe it I clearly did, it was ‘in the future’ whatever future that happened to be.

Whilst chatting to Chris I realised that this expectation is not all that uncommon. This vague picture of a happy future, ‘when we get there it will be easier/better/more fun’. It is so often the case that we put Jesus into our future. He is in our healing, he is in our success, he will lead us on the path to victory.

The thing is, he is also in our now. This is where the quicksand comes in, when we are drowning (or feel like we are) Jesus will jump into the hole with us. He will be there supporting us, encouraging us, helping us or just being there as additional strength. This does not mean that the whole world, and our entire lives are going to suddenly be made perfect, it doesn’t mean that all the pain will end. It means we are not alone.

This conversation inspired me, but it also made me sad. ‘It’s not enough’ was my response to Chris. Is it allowed to say that Jesus isn’t enough? I don’t know, but he is a reverend and he didn’t flinch. In fact he agreed.

God did not make us to be alone, to do things alone. We were made to be in relationship with him, but also with each other. This made me think about how we, as the church, relate to each other and our lives. There is so much emphasis on the life ‘after’ the trauma. ‘What is your testimony?’ My answer to this question would be fairly bog standard and without much drama, other than the fact that it ends with

‘and I am now living with depression, feeling like I am in a pit I will never escape from, knowing I am happy but also wondering how to feel it, hoping against hope that tomorrow will be different and tomorrow will bring that wonder cure. I am not alone though in this pain, Jesus is with me, and will never leave me. He has sent me his counsellor and comforter, to give me wisdom and strength, but also to give me comfort in this pain. However, the pain is still present and consistent’’

What would happen if that was the testimony we heard in church on a Sunday? Would we feel encouraged?

We as the church need to get better at jumping in the hole with people. We are very good at jumping in with those who are dealing with a short term problem, when there is evidence of change coming. However, we are not so hot when it comes to the long term challenge, to the hole that just keeps growing.

What is the point I want to leave with? I don’t really know! I feel so exhausted all the time, that the idea of hole jumping is quite frankly exhausting. But perhaps that is the point. If I was sharing my hole with some of those around me who are also in a hole, would the pressure perhaps be slightly less? Goodness knows. Let’s go see…

(Slight sidepoint, the point of the hole share is not to hold each other up, but to support each other, an equal distribution of care and support so as not to add additional pressure to any one individual)

7 Comments

  • Resonates (again) so much. Sometimes I find it’s best to feel sorry for myself, get it over and then try to think about something else. I’ve wondered a lot if it ever gets easier, so far I think my capacity for coping has increased, which is a form of getting easier and I no longer feel like I’m living in permanent crisis and I’m sure the same will happen for you, gradually and imperceptibly. And in the meantime Jesus is there, in the hole, thank you for sharing that analogy.
    Hope you feel better soon, physical and mental illness at the same time is horrible, they should at least have the decency to take it in turns!

  • The support of people in long-term pain is truly a challenge, Katherine. And right now, in the middle of your own suffering, you’re drawing us to remember this key point. Thank you for blogging through your ‘wilderness’ journey and mining it for its lessons.

  • One of my best friends has a chronic illness and I’m often at a loss at how to support him since he’s too ill to see visitors. This blog post by someone I follow on twitter really helped me understand what someone who is suffering long-term goes through: http://www.jkrowbory.co.uk/2011/06/muddling-through/ I particularly like this bit of what she says: “At this point I can’t find [God’s] reality or his kingdom in this place of torture that I’m in. Has anyone got a working pair of God-antennae? Some God-lenses to fit into my glasses? No? I guess I’ll just have to muddle on then.”

  • Hi Katherine, my sister gave me a useful tip over depression – H A L T – now I ask myself am I
    Hungry?
    Angry?
    Lonely?
    Tired?

    More often than not, I am at least two of these – sometimes all four …but maybe by correcting one (if I’m lonely, I just put the radio on or pick up the phone!) and it normally helps. Also if I can’t seem to get myself shifted, I write the most simplistic lists imaginable – for eg. I just wrote one which reads;

    ‘How to do the next bit’

    1. put PC away
    2. go upstairs & get remaining Christmas cards
    3. check which people I still need to send to
    4. write addresses on envelopes… etc…

    Once I get going with one thing, the chances are vastly improved of me getting going on other things, and with any luck, I’m back on track for the day – one day at a time’s enough.

    I think your blog is one amazing piece of humanity, keep going & be the beyootiful girl you are!

    Caroline

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