I tried to find a catchy first sentence. I searched for months, drafted for hours, and never found it. So this is how we begin the latest reimagining of the Asking Place: with petite failure.
I decided at last to begin writing without my catchy first sentence because although my inner perfectionist has loud opinions about these sorts of things, I have a suspicion that writing something is at this point more important than writing well. And I come to suspect that life is not so different.
The last year or two has seen me to the far side of intense doubt, self-hatred, and what felt like a cosmos of sadness. I will probably say more about that in time, but for now, the only point I want to emphasize is that I did not survive spirit-shattering, faith-toppling heartache with grace and saintly patience. I don’t know if there is a right way to do cosmic sadness, but if there is, I didn’t do it. I kicked and screamed and cursed and resisted the entire way.
Even now, I don’t quite know how I came out of it, and I’m not even sure I deserved it. “When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream,” wrote the psalmist (Psalm 126:1). There is something surreal about the return of joy. I do not know when the shadows faded, only that I walked and walked and eventually I wasn’t in the valley anymore.
Sometimes it’s better to put down words than to make them pretty. And sometimes it’s more important to keep walking than to take the right steps. I don’t know how aimless steps become the path out of the darkness, but I believe they can, and I blame God for it.
If you are among those in the valley, know this: you’re not bad, you’re no crazier than anyone, and you’re not alone. You don’t have to carry yourself with grace. You don’t have to move mountains. You just have to keep walking. The valley is long and dark and terrible, but it is not infinite. The morning still shines on the other side.
So ask questions, get angry, be afraid, lash out, pile up your small failures. Just keep moving, and do not give up hope. Be brave, for morning’s sake.