Years ago I got caught in a pretty debilitating depression. I let things snowball to a point I felt I had little or no refuge left. Every part of life looked bleak including my own bedroom. On weekends I would lie in bed all day and look at piles of laundry, fast food wrappers, stacks of unopened bills and just junk. Blech. It literally made it hard to get out of bed in the morning (or sometimes in the afternoon). One could sprain an ankle on the way to the bathroom. At one point it became difficult for me to imagine that the room would ever be clean. I would lie in bed and pray, “please, someone come and get this sadness out my house.” To my great surprise, one time, someone did.
Overwhelmed by everything I had to face in my life at that time, I didn’t know where to begin. I had to break everything down to the smallest simplest task. So I bought some rubber gloves and made a call. “please,” I said, “help me get this sadness out my house.” It was a short but extremely difficult phone call.
I didn’t want to face the truth let alone admit it to someone even though he already knew. In fact he had been waiting for the call. I had no excuses. It was as bad as I thought it was. All I could do was just inhale and pray a prayer aloud to God in earshot of a friend, “help.”
My friend showed up. It was humiliating to be sure, but the way he tore through piles of garbage so easily was surprising to me. It was shocking that we were actually going to get this done in one day! I was going to have a clean room and I barely knew how to wrap my brain around it. He helped God change my imagination. I found out I liked being able to see the carpet in my room. I ended up with a space I could go to to be alone and not feel like a failure. At very least it had become a place stained with the love and prayer of a friend.
While it didn’t fix everything in my life, it certainly impacted everything that had to be dealt with. All of it. That is a kind of grace you can’t ever pay back . But in response it has made me want to be a better man. It moved me. I needed to be moved. One of the particular qualities of grace is how it moves us. It moves through us and, God willing, it touches others.
Lent, as a time of reflection, introspection, and honesty can seem like it is supposed to be a inward time, maybe even a lonely and isolated season. But that would assume we have all the power in us to fix ourselves. It’s tempting to approach lent like a new year’s resolution. “I’ll lose weight,” or, “I’ll quit smoking.” but lent is not about will power. It is about grace. It is about being moved, not about being stronger. Its about expecting transformation in the very places where it seems we can do no good on our own.
The hope of lent is that we can dive into the dirtiest, scariest ugliest parts of who we are and find the love of God has beat us there. Sometimes just letting other people see what is going on in the depths can help us see that. If they can love us there, why couldn’t God? God is better at it. It will change our perspective and shed a little light where we can only see darkness. Its our job to just buy the rubber gloves and make the call.
So rather than facing ourselves alone, this is a time open ourselves to the grace, the help we need, to lift our imaginations high enough to at least picture living in a room where you can see the carpet. Now is the time for us to help each other imagine better lives for each other and a time to act accordingly.
So let us reflect and let’s also make some appointments with pastors, counselors, priests, best friends, small groups, doctors, dentists and spiritual directors. Maybe even a maid service or mechanic is in order. They have all heard the word, “help,” before.
We need not be exhibitionists. Not all beans need to be spilled. But we can pick one area where we are stuck or an area of sadness where we are trapped in the limits of our imaginations and just say, “help.” It probably won’t fix everything but it it will give us grace. And given time and a little cooperation, it indeed eventually will change everything.
Rejoice. God brings you to life. God is doing this for me also and it will move us where we didn’t think we could go. Even after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he still had to have his bandages removed by his friends so he could live the life that had been given him, …even if the bandages did stink. If you find yourself unable to pray any other prayers this lenten season, you can always turn to God and to others and breathe this small utterance: help.