Just keep swimming.
The famous words from Finding Nemo; an encouragement to keep on keeping on, to not give up.
And these words have merit, don’t they?
There are some days when we’re in “the lowest pit, the darkest ebb”, that we just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other to get us to tomorrow.
I don’t believe that’s it, though.
There is more to life than just treading water and trying to navigate darkness.
There is life to be lived in all its technicolour; in its agony and its comfort, its joy and its exhaustion.
For so long, I didn’t know that there was more to life than agony and exhaustion. I didn’t know there was more to life than survival – because even survival felt impossible.
And then somehow I found myself a community who loved me back to life.
My mental illness didn’t disappear, the scars didn’t fade, my heart didn’t heal in an instant – but I started to live.
I began to understand that it wasn’t about the absence of symptoms; but about the presence of God and His people.
He had of course been walking with me all along, but the more of Him I saw in the people around me, the more I found I recognised His face as the One who had been sustaining me all along.
“Are your wonders known in the place of darkness?” the Psalmist asked – and I found that the answer was yes.
Strangely, it’s in the so-called darkest Psalm that I have found the greatest comfort. Psalm 88 ends with the words “darkness is my closest friend” and yet its inclusion in our Bible tells me a great deal about the God we serve and a great deal about the people we are called to be.
The Psalm doesn’t try to deny pain or darkness or the existence of mental illness, but it brings our hidden hurts into the light and allows the light to touch them; through His mighty acts of grace and our small acts of kindness.
As Frederick Buechener writes:
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us.”
The beauty of our faith is that God is with us in the pit and by the stream; the beauty of community is that we travel with others in their pits and by their streams.
To live a life that is more than surviving is to live with the knowledge of the beautiful and terrible and love anyway.
So reach out and hold on – it’s a riskier ride – but its better journey.
This article is also published over at Threads.