My 'Amazing Grace' summer
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
The summer I was 15 was a rough one. There were days I had so much hurt in me that I would wish I could put it on the outside - like a broken bone or a cut, so that people would say, "Hey look - she needs help." And then they could set the broken bone or put bandages on the cuts. But the hurt was inside of me, and sometimes it felt like I was sinking in a dark pool of water, drowning in depression. I wasn't sure if I could go on feeling so bad about myself, my life. I thought about dying and how that might take me away from all my sadness.
I spent the summer camping. Toward the end of the summer, I offered to help the people who ran a yearly folk festival in a wooded setting. An outdoor amphitheater was at the base of a long, sloping hill, and the performers often camped out in a field with their families. At night you could go from campsite to campsite, listening to people play their guitars and dulcimers and fiddles.
At one campsite, the fire was crackling and the people around it were quiet. The woods were dark under a sky filled with stars. The sparks from the fire seemed to float up to join them. Out of the dark circle around the fire, one voice softly began to sing, "Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound...." Slowly, sweetly, everyone began to join that voice: "That saved a wretch like me!/ I once was lost, but now am found;/ Was blind, but now I see!" I had heard that song before, but this time I stumbled away from the fire, crying.
I felt so far away from God, I was certain He couldn't find me. Maybe he could find other people, but not me. I was too far away from Him to ever come "home."
I thought about what was painted in large gold letters on the wall of my Sunday School, "God is Love," and I began to think about Amazing Grace as if it were Amazing Love. Amazing God. How sweet was the sound of His love for me. I realized I wasn't lost. I wasn't blind to all the ways He was caring for me. I was right there, held in His love. He didn't need to find me; I just needed to remember Him.
Psalm 139 asks the question "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" How far away did I need to go before I really was lost? The answer was in the next verse: "If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there."
Many people describe depression as a form of darkness or overwhelming sadness. I think of it as a time of "awayness" - feeling away from everything and everyone. Then I remember the song from that campfire, floating out of the darkness like one of the sparks, floating up to meet the sky. Such a sweet sound, as if angels were singing to restore my faith in my ability to feel loved by God.
I went back home to my family after the festival, something I wasn't sure I could do. Someone close to my family had suggested I declare myself a ward of the state, in essence divorcing my family. He pointed out that, in his opinion, I was a burden to my mother, and that it would be best for everyone if I went my own way. I began to believe that my family would be better off without me, but this was not true. Many of the things that seemed so big, so beyond my capacity to fix, were corrected.
I had not been home in three months and had very little communication with my family during that time. Flying home, I was unsure of what sort of reception I would get. My mom met me at the airport. Together we went out for a bite to eat before going home. At one point I remember her holding my hand across the table and telling me I was a loved member of the family. It was a wonderful way to forge a new beginning, and I did.
I cherish the words of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, who wrote, "Whatever inspires with wisdom, Truth, or Love - be it song, sermon, or Science - blesses the human family with crumbs of comfort from Christ's table, feeding the hungry and giving living waters to the thirsty" ( "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 234). The "Amazing Grace" hymn opened my eyes to a renewed hope, a hope that led me safely home.
O Lord ... thou hast kept
me alive, that I should not
go down to the pit.