FRIENDS WITH EARS TO HEAR

By Lisa Huddleston

ears-to-hear-11As I approached the door to the sanctuary this Sunday morning, I saw two of my friends smiling and chatting away. One was a long-time pal and the other a fairly new acquaintance, but as soon as their eyes hit mine I could tell that my new friend wanted to talk to me–and I knew what about.

You see, the last time Chuck and I attended our home group, I spontaneously announced to everyone there that I had serious depression and had even struggled with the idea of hurting myself at times. What the heck??!

Well, the group was very sweet, and I could see their concern, but their reactions were awkward for me because I felt a little misunderstood–my fault of course. The leader suggested by asking a question that my depression could be a spiritual difficulty. Since I know that prayer helps in any situation and that was kind of what I was requesting (although I meant prayer in their own homes as they thought of it), I agreed to have the group pray for me right then. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by genuinely, loving believers placing their hands on my back and shoulders and voicing requests for my peace. It truly was well-intentioned and kind (and possibly/probably even very effective), but I am at best a socially-awkward introvert and felt a little freaked out by this reaction and the amount of attention I endured. (To anyone from this group–I LOVE YOU DEARLY! Please, no offense.)

Therefore I knew what was on my friend’s mind; however, I was pleasantly surprised when she began an inquiry of depth and openness that I truly appreciated. I want to write this post to say thank you to her for taking the time to ask some uncomfortable questions in order to understand what I and other depressives are going through.

First, she asked me if depression is a spiritual problem. I answered as honestly as I could that depression is a term used to describe many emotional and physical situations–and that while I believed it could sometimes have spiritual causes–I did not however believe that to be my current situation. My healthcare providers, my personal and family histories, and my symptoms all point toward my experiencing major clinical depression. I did share with her that depression definitely dampens my ability to worship, to pray, and to hold on to faith (thus affecting me spiritually), but that I have been reminded in many ways that it is not my faith that saves me but God’s. My prayer is that when I cannot hold on to Him that He will faithfully hang on to me. And so far, He has. My experience is that my depression is not caused by a “spiritual issue or battle” any more than any other disease is (or is not.)

My friend also asked if depression was the same as feeling sad. Again what a thoughtful question! And my answer is no. When I am sad there is a reason for me to feel that way. I’m too fat for my favorite jeans. One of my cats is missing. Or maybe I have learned of a dear friend’s passing. But depression is much more generalized than sadness. When battling depression, I feel exhausted and disinterested in most things. Sleep is my best friend, and very little can be done to make me less irritable or discouraged about my perception of the hopeless condition of myself or any other life on this planet. My brain feels like either mush or a bouncing pin ball, and I frequently wish I could either simply shut down or completely disappear. Depression is very different from the emotion we call sad.

This thoughtful friend asked me a few more questions–all equally good–offered her help, promised her prayers, and then it was time for us to take our seats. I just want to say thank you to her for taking the time to ask me how I really felt and to listen to my responses. I intend to follow her great example in the future when I have a friend facing a difficulty I know very little about.

Oh, Father, give me ears to hear.

 

OLD FRIENDS, GOLD FRIENDS

By Lisa Huddleston

When I was in Girl Scouts, we sang a little song:

Make new friends, but keep the old.

One is silver and the other is gold.

Well, my dear friend, Suzanne, is gold for sure. We met when both our husbands were in their respective residency trainings, and we were young wives. We were each other’s family away from family—sisters in every sense but blood. We talked daily in a time before cell phones. We were pregnant with our first children at the same time, and our babies played together. And when residency ended, we moved apart. Bob, Suzanne, and babies eventually went home to New Jersey, while Chuck and I and our little ones returned to Tennessee. It broke my heart; she said it broke hers, too. But it was unavoidable—sadly nothing lasts forever.

Together again!

Together again!

I know I am too easily attached to things, to shampoos, to television shows, to times, and to people. I try to stay aloof, apart, but I simply can’t. I’m not made that way. I feel too much too strongly and that makes me worry and dread the days that will come when the store stops carrying my favorite product, the TV series ends, the times change, and people must go. I even worry that both my counselor and doctor are slightly older than I and I know they won’t practice forever and what will I do when they retire or, God forbid, die?! After all, good people are hard to find and … pant, pant, pant. See? Too easily attached.

"Pair o' docs"

“Pair o’ docs”

Last night Chuck and I returned from a long weekend spent with Bob and Suzanne. They drove a little over 7 hours and we drove a little over 8 and we met in the middle and we talked like we used to talk and we hugged and we cried and we shared stories of our five grown children and our parents and our work and our plans for when we retire from work and the state of the nation and the states of our health and golf and hockey and good times and bad and then the time was over and each couple drove away in opposite directions once again. And now my heart hurts all over again.

But I am thankful for old friends and golden days and generous memories that forget the arrogance of youth and see old friends through the eyes of authentic love.

One is silver, and the other is gold!

 

SHARING THE LOAD

A burden shared is a burden halved.

A burden shared is a burden halved.

By Lisa Huddleston

Amazingly, the onslaught of concerns (both small and not so small) continues, and while I can’t share everything I’m carrying in my heart, I remain unendingly thankful for you who help me carry them. Kind words. Thoughtful texts. Snarky comments that make me laugh (especially these). All the ways you let me know you care. Thank you.

And for those of you who don’t know my burdens, I am thankful that you are helping to carry someone else’s. ( As I know you surely are.) People are leaning on you, and that is a good and honorable thing. Thank you for being there for the people in your lives.

And, finally, I am thankful for and honored by those of you who trust me to help you shoulder your struggles. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

And isn’t that why we’re here? To shoulder each other’s burdens, to learn from our own, and to pay forward the comfort we’ve received from Christ? I do believe that, at least in part, it is.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us as we cast our cares on you–thankful to know that you care for us.

Amen.