Three years ago during this time of year, I sat shivering in an urgent psychiatric care ward in Columbus, Ohio. They had confiscated my shoes, wallet, and cellphone. I instinctively worked my thumbs through my, now empty, belt loops.
I learned how to pray that night.
Prayer of the kind that is completely naked – devoid of request or even need. Prayer born of pure yearning for contact with the Divine. Prayer that insists on seeking into the darkness.
The night before he was betrayed and crucified, Jesus called into the darkness for the love of God (Mt. 26:39, 42). All the while, Jesus insisted that his people stay awake in the night and face the silence with humility, patience, and, I think most of all, a sacred trust that God’s will be manifested in the world (Mt. 26:40-41).
We can only imagine how this silence felt to Jesus as he faced a world of pain and sacrifice…but the stale grayness of major depression cannot be far off. To live with depression is to feel that God is absent within the silence. One faces a terrible pain with no possibility of escape – no possibility of a future or existence where the darkness does not choke off the world.
John O’Donohue, in a conversation with Krista Tippett on the public radio program On Being, spoke of those who are “holding out on frontlines, holding the humane tissue alive in areas of ultimate barbarity where things are visible that the human eye should never see.”
He was expounding on how memory and imagination connect us with an inner landscape which can often be the dwelling place of terror and misery for those struggling against depression and oppression.
Even now, as I walk to class or sit in quiet rooms studying, I can feel the fog of depression gathering in hallways and seeping under the doors. The grayness begins to cloud my vision, inhibiting my concentration and my ability to transcend into the future. Fearsome creatures stare back at me in the abyss of my inner landscape.
This is where my belief, not only in God but also in prayer and the institution of church, is generated. My survival three years ago was not only dependent on my own will. I had a community of support in St. John’s UCC in Columbus. I also had faith that the silence which surrounded Jesus’ call into the darkness, provided salvation to all who believe that the cross never has the last word.
I stared at death and discovered resurrection through prayer and community.
So be the community for those in need of hope and pray for those holding out in the abyss. This is how the gospel of Jesus as the Christ is made known to the world and how we embody the will of the Divine in our church.
Foster J. Pinkney is a writer, student, and organizer from Columbus, Ohio. He is a recent graduate from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York and started attending the University of Chicago Divinity School in September 2015, to study for a PhD in Religious Ethics.