I almost skipped church on New Year’s Day. It was the last place I wanted to be—surrounded by people, music, and words of hope and redemption. It would all be salt in a wound, but I couldn’t come up with a legitimate excuse to stay home.
The worship was relevant, the sermon like an arrow aimed at my cynicism. I felt something probing at my hard shell, searching for cracks, but I steeled myself and refused to let it in.
No false hope for me, thanks. I wouldn’t be lured into expecting anything of the new year but more of the same: change that would never come.
It’s taken me a few years to recognize this, but New Year’s isn’t my holiday. Coming off the Christmas high, exhausted by the frantic pace of life, bombarded with the message that we must CHANGE CHANGE CHANGE starting on January 1. It’s too much for goal-setting, overproductive, workaholic me. I burn out, and when I burn out I get disillusioned. And when I get disillusioned, I get depressed.
The cycle was made far worse this year by a back injury I suffered the week before Christmas. For days I could barely walk without help, and could only be upright for minutes at a time. I had to take strong meds to function, and anxiety over the medication drained what little reserve I had.
But what really brought me down this year was the realization that I’m closing in on 40, and it feels like the last decade of my life has been a series of emotional breakdowns, desperate grabs for stability, and futile attempts to get my feet back underneath me.
Time, rest, and a high water intake are gradually easing me out of the New Year Blues, but it’s a process. One I’ve been through before, and I was reminded last week of how important it is to be gentle with myself when I’m in this place.
I have a vague childhood memory of holding a newborn animal—a gerbil or guinea pig, perhaps—and being cautioned to be extremely gentle. The skin was so delicate and fragile at that stage that it could tear easily. The thought horrified me enough to stick in the filing cabinet in my brain, and I pull it out whenever I’m in a recovery phase.
Be Gentle with Yourself
Finding time to be gentle with myself is a struggle, because I’m usually way too busy beating myself up. I loathe myself for being so hard, so unwilling to soften, and the more I loathe, the harder I become.
Being gentle with ourselves requires courage. It’s bravery to let yourself off the hook. To accept grace. To unfurl your heart to the warmth of belonging.
Being gentle with yourself is only this: to let God’s gaze shine on one square inch of your ugliness. To just let Him look.
He can see it anyway, but there’s a release in the unveiling. A voluntary, self-inflicted crack in our armor. And through it seeps non-judgement. Non-loathing. Non-condemnation.
Through it seeps gentleness.
And that’s where healing starts.