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An ocean wave with the words: "Soul Songs: discovering the divinity of everyday life"

This Beautiful Mess

Life is beautiful—or so they say on coffee cups and t-shirts. But the world we live in, no matter how many saints, prophets, and miracles have graced the pages of history, is filled with darkness as well as light; storms as well sunshine. No matter how many times I try to see only the light and keep my thoughts to ones of pure love, I still encounter daily proof of the darkness that seems to be an inescapable part of the human experience. Sometimes the pain of it makes it hard to see anything else. The truth is life is messy and probably always will be. I cannot wait for the storm to pass before I can admire the view.

Depression has been one of the storms of my life. I've always been a sensitive person and prone to feeling very deeply, but several years ago, I found myself living in the darkness of a severe depression. Not a day went by for two years that some form of debilitating inner torment didn't find its way into my consciousness. Nothing I did seemed to have any effect on this blackness that had consumed all my joy. It pervaded every cell, every thought, and every part of my being. Some days, it left me an emotionless empty shell, completely detached from life.

Other days, it was quite the opposite and I was overcome with feelings. One such day, I was in my car, when all of sudden the pain of my depression roared up inside me like a dragon, consuming me in a bitter tempest of darkness. The pain was so swift and so crippling that I had to pull over only ten minutes away from my home. Everything seemed to stop, while I sat in my car and cried. I felt that the plague of depression had finally infected every part of my body, mind, and spirit, and there was nothing left of me but pain. After what seemed like a black hole of time, I dropped my head on my hands as they gripped the steering wheel. I was utterly spent.

It occurred to me in that moment to wonder at the power of what I had just experienced. A thought came to my mind that as depressions go, this one certainly must be the most magnificent in its terrible power than anything I could have imagined (and my imagination is quite acute). In the midst of unrelenting self-loathing, I had to admit that this was a first-rate depression. There was almost something awesome in the intense inner torture that what was living in my soul at that moment. Even though pain was still ringing through every layer of myself and tears were still streaming down my already tear-stained face, I had to laugh at my new-found appreciation for the darkness. I was looking the devil in the eyes and saw that he has, in fact, quite beautiful eyes.

This world is a play of light and dark, a dance between the angels and the demons. As long as we are human, we will see it this way. We will have trouble in the world—that much is certain. We will have storms, sent to test us and strengthen us. As much as we cry out against it, we are witnessing and experiencing the glorious dance of the light with the dark. Life is messy. There will be opposition. There will be friction. There will be storms. But they can hold for me a treasure of beauty as long as I'm not afraid to look for it.

And so, in that moment, I claimed my depression. I realized, black though it may be, it was a cloud in a much larger sky. I was able to see it. I looked it in the eye and said, "You're mine, and like it or not, you're beautiful." If I had to have depression, if it was my lot to experience such incredible pain as this, then let it beautiful. If life was destined to be such a mess, then let it be a beautiful mess.

Looking back, I realize that the beauty I saw was the gift that made it possible to for me to accept and even love my depression. I accepted it as a beautiful part of the intricate design of me. My hope now is to try, by God's grace, to see beauty in all storms. My intention is to see life's messes, not as I would wish them to be, but as they are, presenting themselves before me, asking me to see their beauty. And so, this is the dance of life, this mess that continually seeks entrance into my heart. And so I will love it, this beautiful mess.

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