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Am I Being Baptized or Am I Drowning?

i started preaching on accident.
and my life has been in complete chaos ever since.

On a cold day in February, a colleague of mine emailed a few people asking if we wanted to preach a chapel service at Union Theological Seminary. Upon first read, I said "Hell No!" I mean like, WTF? I had never preached before in my life. Matter of fact, I started seminary telling everyone that I wasn't a preacher. I simply wasn't interested in doing ministry in that way. But there was something that whispered to my soul that brisk morning that led me to reply with a hesitant "Yes. I'll do a lil somethin' somethin." I hadn't planned on writing a homily. I thought I'd do a spoken word piece that was infused with a lil scripture here and there, maybe even squeeze in a song or two. Some kinda way my spoken word piece turned into an exegetical exploration as I fell in love with the wonders of hermenuetics more and more. It was a beautifully frightening moment that I cherish... and despise.

My life has been a tumultuous rollercoaster ever since I opened my mind and my mouth to the will and the word of God. This little "accident" has been the thorn in my side, the dream I never knew I had, the nightmare that won't go away. After saying "Yes" to this calling to go into ministry 4 years ago (and into seminary last August), I have been met with such harsh life lessons married with amazing moments of encouragement, new friends who have become family paired with difficult separations, and most recently, depression. We don't like that word. And for good reason. People play around with it too much. For those of you who know what it's like to cry everyday--to feel like you're constantly sinking, to feel alone in a room full of people, to hear your praises on people's lips and feel nothing, to walk across a bridge and the thought of jumping faintly crosses your mind--you know the reality of depression and how it can immobilize you...how it can keep you in bed far beyond the designated 8 hours...how it can distort your vision and displace your aspirations. It seems like the more I step into this thing called "ministry," the more I feel as if I'm falling into an abyss.

There are days when I don't know if I'm being baptized or if I'm drowning. What is this anguish I feel amidst this apparent anointing? What is this loneliness amidst the praise of people? 
I never thought ministry would be easy. Few people are lucky enough to have a pastor that talks openly about depression and other mental health issues among clergy. Yet, I guess I didn't expect the post-church brunch invitations to fall off so quickly.  I didn't expect the check-ins by people I thought were mentors to halt so abruptly. I hadn't properly prepared for the coffee-dates and happy hours with "friends" to never make it on the calendar--for the foundation of what was my support circle to crumble and melt into the quick sand along with my sanity. I simply Didn't Sign Up For This!

The quickness with which these events have happened reminds me of Jesus' post-baptism moment. In Matthew 4:1, the writer says that Jesus was "led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Almost as quickly as he was baptized by John and affirmed by God, Jesus is led into a harrowing encounter with the devil himself in which he was forced to test his faith in the loneliness of the sunken place. It made me think about the series of events that have taken place since my "accident" differently. Almost as quickly as I walked into this ministry thing, I was snatched away into the wilderness to wrestle with myself. I've been thinking a lot about what I believe about God--and myself--in the post-baptism, post-theophanic moment in this wilderness. What do you believe about yourself when you're alone in the gym after church while everyone else is drinking mimosas? What do you believe about your faith--your God--when you're forced into a quiet place to wrestle with the devil yourself?

I'm learning how to worship in the wilderness...again. I'm learning how to find warmth in this sunken place--how to wrestle without hurting myself. I'm learning to be okay without the comforts of my pre-baptism life. Perhaps, the wilderness is the Clearing--this painfully intriguing space of solitude.

and until I come out, if I come out, I shall wrestle...and go to therapy...and try to keep my head above water.

-----
For those in crisis:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255

The Samaritans 24-hours Crisis Hotline
212-673-3000


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