If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you – Psalm 139:11-12
Apparently I’m still human.
Though I am still not so sure how I feel about it, emotions being such messy things.
Let me explain.
In all things moderation, the saying goes. However, I am by nature not a particularly moderate person. Years ago, when my wife mentioned we might want to start cutting back on beef and pork, I went cold turkey (except for bacon, because, of course, bacon.) When we first moved here sixteen years ago and I decided to garden, I ended up digging up huge swaths of grass around the house and have been futzing with it ever since. There are 23 pots of African violets within my line of sight as I type this. My legacy in lack of moderation speaks for itself.
One of the side effects or at least outcomes of two years of medication and therapy has been an impact in my “enthusiasms” as well as my emotions. The internal fire from my hobby of nature photography has not burned out, but remains a time of solace and renewal for me. As for my emotions, when one goes from crying almost daily to once or twice a year and from becoming impatient and angry quite frequently to once or twice a year, any hint of negative emotion can be alarming, almost shocking. Recently that alarm rang in deafening clangs and whoops and siren screams. I had the experience of that paralyzing unhinging of emotional control; going from master of the moments of my life to a lost child who keeps repeating a single phrase: Did I forget to lock the door?
When one stands of the precipice of the deep dark rabbit hole of depression, frozen in place by anxiety and the ground begins to give way, panic usually ensues and builds upon itself, a tsunami of misplaced energy and debris. Pointing into the hole is a sign: “This way there be monsters” until the sign, itself, becomes victim and food for the abyss.
This time I refused to be consumed, to be nutrient and simultaneously excrement in the ongoing neuro-chemical war in my brain and body. Not. This. Time.
I struck back at the chaos brought on by a person, who had once again wounded me, by this time separating them from their unhealthy behaviors. Behaviors are things that can be placed in the matrix of acceptable and unacceptable. Others can be invited in to offer wisdom and determined a shared and agreed upon way forward. I was no longer alone and involving others became a lifeline pulling me back, keeping my feet firmly planted.
Look, we can seek to love people without affirming poor behavior. Without proper boundaries everything is food for the darkness, which has consumed many people and perhaps especially pastors who often struggle, I suggest, with separating people from their behaviors and inviting others in to take a firm stand on the matter. Congregations can be havens for unhealthy people for there is where a loving and supportive community gathers and there is where the power and presence of Jesus, our wounded healer can be especially present and experienced. Congregations are also where things can be so right and go so wrong when unhealthy behaviors are tolerated, and by that I mean, ignored or even affirmed when grace is confused with pity.
We can’t fix people, but we can seek to respond to their behaviors in appropriate ways. We can continue to work on our own health so that we do not become victims and in that we make ourselves more open to more truly and deeply loving God and neighbor.