No one likes to admit it, of course, but I’ll own I hit bottom sometime early April. It had to do, I think, with passing the year mark and seeing no light at the end of the Covid tunnel. We had our hopes raised only to have them cruelly torched. Confidence in governments, scientific experts and health administrators finally snapped. Even with vaccinations in full swing, numbers skyrocketed continually, and new variants spread like wildfire.
With a vicious unexpectedness, the prolonged roller-coaster of pandemic finally body-slammed me to the mat. My dwindling exercise regime bit the big one, I abandoned all creative endeavors, and even the normal nagging of housework routine failed to goad me into action. Despite my vigilance, the point came when I felt myself simply giving up the ghost. Enough with the Pollyanna attitude! Who am I kidding? I’m no spiritual giant! Leave me alone. I was done. Truth to tell, I still am. If there’s a second wind, I haven’t quite found it yet.
When time, our greatest resource, becomes our worst enemy, it gets nasty. It’s not only the pandemic we’re fighting but the sense of drowning in conditions we no longer control. We struggle to find meaningful activity and practical purpose for the day, and dealing with the strange ennui that attends being socially sequestered for extended periods.
The problem with psychological burnout is that it’s mostly swept under the carpet. Either we’re in denial, or the energy it takes to admit we’re red-lining and seek solution demands too much from our already depleted resources. Even serious Christians, grounded in the Word, continuously wrestle down new demons in the face of an uncertain future. Mental health issues are paramount.
For those of us still clinging like a burr on a galloping buffalo to our on-going dialog with God, an unexpected piece of scripture can suddenly put words to emotions far too illusive to define. A passage in the book of Jonah graphically expressed the disorientation I feel at being swallowed by the Covid whale.
Then Jonah prayed to his God from the belly of the fish.
He prayed: In trouble, deep trouble, I prayed to God. He answered me. From the belly of the grave I cried, ‘Help!’ You heard my cry. You threw me into ocean’s depths, into a watery grave, With ocean waves, ocean breakers crashing over me. I said, ‘I’ve been thrown away, thrown out, out of your sight. I’ll never again lay eyes on your Holy Temple.’ Ocean gripped me by the throat. The ancient Abyss grabbed me and held tight. My head was all tangled in seaweed at the bottom of the sea where the mountains take root. I was as far down as a body can go, and the gates were slamming shut behind me forever— Yet you pulled me up from that grave alive, O God, my God! When my life was slipping away, I remembered God, And my prayer got through to you, made it all the way to your Holy Temple. Those who worship hollow gods, god-frauds, walk away from their only true love. But I’m worshiping you, God, calling out in thanksgiving! And I’ll do what I promised I’d do! Salvation belongs to God! Then God spoke to the fish, and it vomited up Jonah on the seashore. Jonah 1:17-2:10 The Message
This last year has dragged us down to the very deeps, of both ourselves and the social construct which surrounds us. It’s exposed a matrix of terrifying deceptions, unworthy partnerships and hollow endeavors. It’s exacted a high price in authenticity and vulnerability. Hearts, ambitions and relationships all went into the Red Sea, and Pharaoh’s best chariots got busted up. His fiercest warriors went down.
There are things you can only learn about yourself, life and God by touching bottom. When you come to the end of yourself, much greater things get your undivided attention. Welcome or not, big, life-changing truths transform you forever. When Jonah finally got spit out of the whale, you can bet his paradigms, along with his programs, had altered significantly. Even the most recalcitrant of prophets suddenly found himself on divine wave-lengths.
What will we find here at the bottom? Like Jonah, we'll sort out our idols. It’s totally counter-intuitive, but you’ve got to go down low to come back up high. Scrape bottom to find your eagle’s wings. The Holy Spirit is still guiding us in the deep, so don’t abandon your hope, your joy and your expectation just yet. Priceless treasures, singular creatures and once-in-a-life-time exploits may yet be found in the great abyss of your own soul.
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. Psalm 107:23-24
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Enjoy Spring 2021! I will be taking a blogging break for May. See you again in June! Crystal