LETTERS FROM OUR RECTOR, THE REV. JIMMY GRACE-
In 1992, I found myself facing a depression from which I did not think I would emerge. I wish I could blame this depression on the anxiety I harbored from seeing the movie Jaws at the age of four (I was afraid then that a great white shark lived in my bathtub). But in the case of depression and anxiety, the causes are often multi-layered and complex. In 1992, my mother, in her wisdom, moved me into a residential therapeutic setting, and I discovered there that I was not alone in my feelings. There were other people there my age bravely and vulnerably facing their own demons of addiction, depression, and anxiety.
When I first arrived at the hospital, I felt a sense of relief. I was in a place where I did not have to present a false self – a self I had presented all throughout high school of a happy, easy going person. In the hospital, I could let my true face at the time be seen. While I was initially uncomfortable doing this, I found that others were risking vulnerability in the same way by sharing their struggles and their issues.
More importantly, it was at that hospital where I discovered God. In the midst of a dark night of the soul, I learned that God was in that experience with me – not judging me, not shaming me, but holding me. I clearly remember one night when I became acutely aware of this. Up until that moment I thought that God expected perfection from me, that if I wasn’t perfect, I was unworthy to receive God’s love.
That night, I learned that God loved me for who I was, and that God was not ashamed to meet me in the dark place where I was. God changed that night for me from a vengeful perfectionist to a graceful, compassionate, and loving reality.
Our lives are not easy. Many of us struggle with depression, many of us have lost loved ones to suicide, and many of us wonder where God is in the midst of deep emotional pain. I am grateful that God enters into that pain with us, weeps with us, struggles with us, and never forsake us.
It is a shame that mental illness still carries a stigma in our culture. I believe it is important to share our story, because it is in the sharing of our lives that we learn the full extent of God’s transforming love. All of us have a story to tell. My hope is that St. Andrew’s might become that place where our stories are shared and honored; that God’s love is made real through our shared experience and story.