The dampening allure of the doldrums

It had been creeping up for a few days now. I saw it in the shadows, but it would quickly scurry away. Then I saw it approaching with a little more intent, but it would never quite draw upon me. This morning I woke up feeling particularly grand and then it came down. The doldrums.

Last week I finished another stage of a big project. Since then I’ve had odds and ends to do but nothing which really grabbed my soul. I stepped back a bit from that project for perspective only nothing else filled that void. My mind was set loose and began to think overmuch.

Today I felt it most of all, and didn’t have a perspective to pull me out. I felt it, I embraced it, and sat in it. Uggh. Nothing to dismal, just doldrums. That vague feeling of nothingness which creeps up and suggests to the soul there is nothing more than the nothingness. I know not to believe it, or give into its temptations, but I still feel it, it becomes a wearisome battle, especially when there isn’t some grand “aha!” to steer me straight again.

So, my day started slipping away. I attempted some odds and then some ends, my distractive soul not settling anywhere.

I kept at it, however, seeking to at least wage the war against acedia even if I couldn’t entire vanquish the foe for today.

I did one thing for a little while, then turned to another, keeping myself finishing small things as it seemed big or creative projects were not going to be accomplished today. I had no peace. But what could I do?

In the afternoon, in between one computer task and another, I turned to look outside, thinking to at least allow some beauty in my soul. I saw a yellow butterfly alight on a branch, then fly to another, then to yet another. It fluttered about, and then out of sight.

I decided to follow it.

I picked up my camera, went downstairs and out the door, hoping I would catch it along its path from one spot to another. I didn’t see it. It had flown away, out of view.

But there I was outside. With my camera. On the first day of summer. A beautiful sunny day with a slightly cool breeze which gave balance to the blessed sun warmth.

I sat down on the steps and let my mind wander. A jay flew over. I took its picture when it landed.

My mind wandered some more. I took a picture of a western wallflower.

I felt my shoulders relax. I watched how the breeze shook the limbs of a young pine tree. I listened to the sounds of a robin, and took its picture when I finally saw him on the branch nearby.

I sat half in the sun and half in the shade, my mind now easing, my soul now letting go. I stood up and took some more pictures. Of a cedar. Of some logs. Of a long blade of grass. Of another jay. Of the ground. Of the sky. My eyes began to dance as I took in more and more of the beauty outside.

The wind picked up, and my soul caught it, leading me out of the doldrums and into renewal. I stopped thinking. I stopped speaking. I stopped doing. I stopped forcing. I began to listen and to watch and to let go.

My mood of the day turned and I began to feel peace. All was well, I realized. All was just fine. There are things to do, and things to wait for, and things to trust in. There is God.

Ah, yes, there is God. Steeped in his beauty I was reminded there is indeed God.

“God is faithful,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”

When tempted by the dampening allure of the doldrums, God sent a butterfly my way. I let go and followed that butterfly and found the way out, the way of peace, the way, even, of joy.

I put down the tools of my trade and listened to the whispers that came. I released myself to see God anew. It was not a profound answer or a significant breakthrough. It was merely a butterfly at his own business leading me to rediscover the path I had misplaced for a moment.

I suspect there’s something to this. So often I look for this profound answer, when all along God is leading me, and steering me, and giving me whispers along the way to make sure I continue aligned in faith and hope and thanksgiving. If I listen and respond I may not see new doors opening but I will feel the peace and joy of the Spirit which lifts the soul towards heaven itself even as it continues to wade through these present frustrations.

From now on I’m going to pay a lot more attention to the butterflies.

This was written June 22, 2006

A few years ago, Barclay Press invited me to do a two week daily journal for their website. They’ve since changed their online presence so those writings are gone. I was sorting out different files on my computer this evening and happened to run across them. So, I thought, I might as well repost them here. Both to have a record of them, and maybe more so, because these were written in 2006 and 2007. A fair bit of changes have happened in my life since then, so these are records of a time in my life when all I had was faith. I was writing a lot during these journaling times, and it’s curious what came out when I sat down to write. So, mostly for me, but also for anyone whose interested, I’m going to post one of these a day for the next 20 days or so.

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