peace Peace is the tangible symbol of shalom that we so urgently need. But, in our troubled world, peace and hope can sometimes be difficult to find. In times of challenge, the belief that God is present in all circumstances, offering refuge to all those in need, reminds us of God’s blessing for our lives.
Finding peace when a Black Dog sleeps in your corner Rev Sarah Agnew
I first experienced depression when I was 17, reeling from the stress of Year 12, losing friends to their different paths, and still isolated after five years of chronic back pain. I realised that it was depression as I studied for my first year psychology exams, seeing in myself the symptoms of ‘major depression.’ At its worst, I retreated into the dark cave of my innermost self, creating distance from friends and family. Eventually I found myself, figuratively, sitting in a dark cave with my hand on the trapdoor to escape. Literally, I was sitting in the kitchen, alone, considering the ways I could die so the pain would end. I don’t know how long I sat there, but at some point I realised my housemate would soon return home, and I moved from kitchen chair to bed. Years later, I would reflect on that night when I sat, seemingly paralysed, unable to call for help yet also unable to cause myself harm. Looking back, it felt as though there might have been angels beside me - if not holding me down, then holding me true to myself. Who knows? I do not think God judges or rejects those who take their life; I think they are welcomed in their vulnerability and deep need. I think this way because of the stories of Jesus. It felt to me as though I had looked up in the darkness and discovered that I was not, after all, alone. Though I had let go of everyone else, I had not let go of God. For me, the connection with the Divine has been intrinsic to life itself – I have never known God to not be with me. We used to sing about God never letting us go, but what gave me the courage to get up and climb towards the light was that I had never let go
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of God. As I undertook the difficult climb out of that cave, the knowledge that I had chosen life gave me a calm confidence, a sense of peace. Since then, I have flowed in and out of depression. I have never returned to the dark cave, but, along the way, a Black Dog began to accompany me. Doctors have suggested I might be able to be free of depression, but I know this illness well and I suspect it is here to stay. Mostly, the dog lies sleeping beside me and rarely stirs – we battle far less these days. But how do I find peace with a Black Dog sleeping in the corner of my life? I find great peace in the fact that I chose life, I chose God, and I chose to live in the hope and fullness of being I continually find in God. It’s done. The choice is made. As a result of this choice and its influence, I committed to discerning how I would find fullness of being in my life. I have since found peace in my identity and role as storyteller, poet and minister. I experience this peace as wholeness; in this identity and role, I have found a way to live into the fullness of my being. I believe this fullness is God’s dream for each of us. When we find a way to live into the fullness of our own being, the striving for wholeness draws us on to seek this fullness for each other. In addition to finding contentment in my vocation, I strove to find daily practices that would nurture my wellbeing – spiritually, physically, mentally. I now practice tai chi, balance time alone and with others, eat well, get enough sleep, and walk in the sunshine. I find peace through these practices, which connect me to the Holy and to my healed, whole self.
Peace for me comes with acceptance and understanding. Peace comes with kindness and love – for myself and for others. Peace resides within me because God abides with me, and I choose to abide in God. You can read more of Sarah’s story at sarahtellsstories.blogspot.com.au Sarah is leading a team producing an event for Beyond Blue to be held at The Corner Uniting Church at 3.30pm on Sunday 20 July. Please check UC e-news for further details or contact Sarah on 0408 087 754 or email@example.com