A couple of years ago, one of my close friends sent me a link to a sermon from his church. The text said, “best sermon about depression I’ve ever heard.” I was intrigued. I’ve heard sermons that address mental health before; pastors with smiles, telling me that joy comes from the Lord, and if I pray hard enough and have enough faith, I’ll be happy.
If the link had not come from a friend who had taken more than their share of late-night phone calls, I would have rolled my eyes. But he knew better than to send me unempathetic garbage, so I gave it a listen.
I wouldn’t say the message was all about mental health, but the guy had a point. He didn’t tackle the question of why I’m depressed, or how to fix it. He reminded me that God feels my suffering and that He doesn’t waste a tear. God doesn’t hear my cries and think, “She’ll get over it soon enough,” or belittle me and tell me how I’m being too negative all the time or consider my mental breakdowns a just punishment. He hurts with me.
Not only does God feel my pain, He says, “Watch me bring goodness out of despair.” As the pastor said, His grace shines in our disgrace. As I am broken and crying and disgraceful, He turns broken pieces into beautiful flowers. It’s who He is.
This week, I’ve had to remind myself of this daily. Ever had one of those days when you can’t seem to do anything right? That’s been my life recently. My dog escaped twice this week, and he’s a runner. In the past two years, he’s escaped four times that I remember… and now we’re at six. Each time he gets out, I mentally prepare myself in case I’m about to witness my emotional support animal get hit by a car.
It takes a toll.
But both times, I had complete strangers pause their lives to help me catch him and get him home safely. Angels come in many forms. The first time, I got him leashed and walked home, sobbing. The second time, I cried and spent an hour looking at Shiba Inu forums online to remind myself it’s common for his breed, and he doesn’t hate me. If it weren’t for my dog, my life would look very different. God has used him to help me stay stable, and without him, I wouldn’t have my current job.
Every time something went wrong this week, I talked myself out of spiraling. I was feeling so proud when my emotions settled and I didn’t completely fall apart. I’ve come a long way. Maybe feeling proud about not freaking out when you do a whole load of laundry without soap isn’t an award-winning feat, but I take what I can get.
I didn’t spiral when I made a stupid mistake with our trash company, leading to confusion and a few extra cans. I didn’t spiral when I accidentally left the dome light on in my car for 24 hours and my battery was dead. I didn’t spiral when I tried a menstrual disc for the first time and couldn’t get it out (although that was a rough one, and I consider it a huge accomplishment).
I didn’t spiral until this morning when I realized my work key was missing. Since I was recently promoted, I now have a key to our store, as of Wednesday. By Sunday, I had lost that key. Fighting tears, I began retracing my steps. It clearly got pulled off my lanyard, but how? Did I drop it outside of my car and run it over? Did it fall into the toilet at P.F. Chang’s? Did it fall out of my pocket yesterday while I was chasing my dog all over the city, or into the stranger’s car who gave me a ride home? While driving home, I contemplated what it would feel like to call my manager crying, get fired, and start a new career, possibly in a new country. I began praying.
Lo and behold, you know where that key was? In the back pocket of the jeans I wore Saturday night.
I canceled my to-do list, drew up a hot bath, and made some tea. I was spent.
As I listened to the slow draining of the tub that I have yet to fix, I remembered that sermon. In these moments of failure, big and small, I am not enough. I never will be. I never can be.
I live in disgrace. That’s the nature of this broken world and my broken self. I am an absolute mess. My life is chaotic, I make mistakes, forget things, accidentally hurt people I love. Sometimes I cry during Disney’s Mulan because I’m so impressed by how far the soldiers have come by the end of “I’ll Make a Man out of You”.
I think of “Liability” by Lorde, how someone told her he “made the big mistake of dancing in my storm”. I am a storm, beautifully and wonderfully made. But in this hurricane, I witness God every day.
Grace has allowed me to cry with people who are sad like me, because I can understand. Grace allows me to experience love I do not and cannot deserve. Grace says, “You are not enough. But I am.”
So I dance in my own storm because it isn’t about me. I withstand the hurricane, taking hope in the God who knows my sad heart. I live in freedom from my shortcomings, embracing my imperfect self. God’s law was intended to show humanity how far short we fall, but He doesn’t leave us there. He gave us grace.
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”Galatians 2:19-21.
Christ died in disgrace. A criminal’s death, stripped and assaulted. Verbally abused and mocked. He died in disgrace so we could experience His grace.
Every time we accept His grace in our disgrace, we reminisce on how Jesus was raised in glory. When God sends me strangers to help me keep my runaway dog safe, he’s sending me grace. However disgraceful I can be, Jesus bore that on the cross.
Whatever grace you need to accept for yourself right now, I hope you take it. It’s a good and perfect gift, being given whole-heartedly. Jesus died because you aren’t enough; He is. He was, is, and always will be. When you’re a complete disaster like me, reminisce on how Christ was raised in glory.
His grace shines in our disgrace.