When Depression Leaves Home
There are few things I dislike more than getting up early. One of them is getting up early on a Saturday. I get up early every other day of the week either to work or to lead worship at my church. Saturdays are my days. I love sleeping past 9 o’clock and slowly waking up to coffee and breakfast in my pajamas. But there are a few things for which I would gladly sacrifice these rare moments, and on this particular Saturday morning, I did one of them.
Who would have thought that picking up trash or cleaning out a friend’s basement or sanding an old beam to be restored could be so fulfilling? Volunteering for Wildheart has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I drive home feeling tired and sore, covered in dirt, and perfectly content.
First, a bit about me:
The town I’m from is less than an hour drive from the Mansion, and it is very small. It’s also very “Christian.” People around here don’t think twice about the fact that a welcome sign would say “God bless our town.” Grocery stores and restaurants are packed on Sundays immediately after noon because most of the churches let out around that time. By my count—and my experience of Sunday afternoon checkout lines—the ratio of churches to grocery stores is 21 to 2.
Despite the high church attendance, I realized pretty young that one of the greatest demons plaguing my community was depression. The young people couldn’t wait to move away. The retired folks complained like it was their job. Growing up, I felt so stifled. The moment I noticed that monster, “Depression,” beginning to wrap its tentacles around my own heart, I started making plans. Nearly as soon as I turned 18, I was out of there.
I moved to California with no intention of ever moving back. I loved my family dearly, and I loved the beauty and safety of familiar places, but it felt like dreams just couldn’t grow here. I felt like if I stayed too long, I would sink into the ground and never be able to get out.
I won’t tell the whole story, but my time living in California was full of all the adventure I always dreamed of. I drove through 18 states to get there and home again and did a short stunt in Africa, as well. I saw huge mountains and deserts and canyons and plains. I swam in the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. I saw the Golden Gate Bridge and a few Vegas casinos. I even jumped off a cliff.
But in all my adventures, nothing has been as scary as coming back home. It was my choice, but it wasn’t easy. I hit a point where I realized that all the adventures in the world couldn’t break a stronghold that was inside me. I drove, and flew, and ran as far as I could, but it wasn’t the adventure that set me free—it was encountering the love of God.
For the past 4 years, the Mansion has given me an outlet for dreams and passions that previously felt like they had no home here. You can go to church your whole life and never experience the love of God physically moving through you—through your hands, through your words, through your prayer and worship. Over the years, God has gradually been working on my heart like a gardener carefully tending the seeds He planted. Slowly, His vines of love and patience and hope wrapped around the tentacles of depression and squeezed them till they fell powerless at my feet. I now see my home—and my life—in a new light, and much of that is thanks to my friends at Wildheart.
As I swept the basement of the Mansion this morning, I was reminded of all those years battling depression. It could be the nicest sunny day with springtime flowers blooming and birds singing, but inside it feels cold and dark and lonely. The crazy thing is, when I’m at the Mansion—even in the basement—I feel invincible to depression. I know it’s because Tannon, Cristina, and the gang have waged a war in the spirit against every force that would exalt itself above the light and love of Jesus. The acts of service we do on volunteer days are only expressions of the Spirit who has made Himself at home there. We love because He does.
I’ve found that the key to breaking depression is using the love Holy Spirit gives us. Love is a muscle that needs to be exercised to grow strong. Sometimes exercising it looks like picking up trash for your neighbors so they know they are respected and valued. Sometimes it looks like cleaning your friends’ basement so they can better fulfill the call of God on their lives. Sometimes it looks like sanding old painted beams so they can be restored to their historic beauty. Today it looked like all these things.
Tomorrow I will be sore from carrying those 5 gallon buckets of broken drywall down two flights of stairs, but it’s so worth it. To feel vision and passion and hope and purpose coursing through my veins … I’m so grateful. As I swept the dust out of this 110-year-old Mansion, I remembered the dark, dirty basement I used to live in. Only this one feels totally different. Here there are no monsters—only paint and shovels and wheel barrows for carrying love through the city’s streets. I no longer feel stuck in the heart of Pennsylvania; I feel like God has planted His heart here, and I will gladly sink mine next to His.
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