By Katie Teal, University of North Georgia
We have waited.
We have waited through the bleak winter and pious forty days. We have waited and now spring has arrived. We have celebrated Christ’s resurrection but what is our course now that Easter has come?
There is a plan during Lent. Forty days of sacrifice, prayer, and penitence. Forty days of waiting. But now the bells have been rung and the Alleluia’s sung and I feel lost.
I did not give up anything for Lent this year but instead spent my time finally taking the steps to understand and manage the anxiety that has plagued my life since my grandparents’ passing in the summer of 2013. We lost them within 2 and a half months of each other. My first taste of grief was a huge, bitter bite that I couldn’t spit out. It strangled me, sat in my chest, wrapping around my heart and lungs, churning in my stomach. It was the needle poking my side, pulling thread taught, tensing my eyebrows together. The wind up crank in my back forcing my shoulders up, keeping my mind running at all hours. I craved relief from the ache in my heart and yet was unwilling to let go of that pain. I needed to hurt at first but then I didn’t know how to stop and the grief infiltrated every part of my being. I was tired, lethargic, unable to focus and all of the sudden any amount of stress was overwhelming. This became my norm. I didn’t know the fog that covered my past two years had a name.
I didn’t know what to call the moments when I cried and couldn’t seem to suck in enough air.
Depression was my shadow. I couldn't always see it but I knew it was there dancing around waiting to cast it's far reaching darkness over what lay in front of me. I spent two years telling myself I was fine. That the panic attacks were a normal part of college and what I was going through wasn't severe enough to need intervention. I hid the anxiety and hurt from those I love. I created my own tomb. Somehow it seemed safer to sit in the darkness than to step into the light and accept the help I so desperately needed.
This Lent, I stared my anxiety in the face and called it by it's name. I finally accepted the help I had craved but had run from these past two years and now I'm left wondering what my next step needs to be.
I attended the Easter Vigil service this year and the priest pointed out the flowers. Beautiful arrangements boasting lilies, greenery, and palms as well as the stripped, harsh, solemn branches left from Lent. He made the point that as we celebrate Christ's resurrection the grief of his crucifixion is still with us but now it is framed in the hope Easter gives us. New life awaits us.
The darkness of pain and grief can be all consuming but Easter is a reminder of God's love. As we move forward in this Easter season let us not forget the grief and sacrifice of the Lenten season but use it as our foundation for growth. We are called to love like Jesus and I think that means at times we have to embrace the doubt, anxiety, and grief that are so common place in the lives of young adults. Jesus cried out "my God why have you forsaken me?" How often have I doubted God's presence in my life? How often have I questioned God's call to me? It is okay to doubt and fear and hurt but it's important to remember those moments. To recognize God was there even when I couldn't see past the shadow of my grief. God loved me and hurt with me and when I was ready provided me with a beautiful reminder of God's unconditional love and promise of life everlasting.