I feel honored and humbled to even be writing this blog post and to represent a program like the Nashville Fellows. Already, only halfway through, I am beginning to not just know but feel the knowledge that this program will impact the rest of my life for the better – and for that reason alone, I’m filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and thankfulness. There have been numerous formative aspects of the Fellows program thus far, including my internship at a digital marketing company, a host family that loves and cares for me deeply, and even the Enneagram test; but above all, the most formative part of the program for me personally has been the community that the seventeen (including Theresa) of us have fostered. Since some reading this might not know the Nashville Fellows personally, I will attempt to paint a brief picture of what this community has looked like thus far – as well as what it has meant to me.
First and foremost, the Fellows community is broken. This year alone, most all of us have been hurting, grieving, and even arguing at some point in time. We’re all carrying baggage marked either by hurt, shame, guilt, or loss – the natural effects of sin. However, and thankfully, we have been vulnerable with our brokenness. On our opening retreat, Theresa noted that our brokenness breeds vulnerability, and because of my friends’ bravery and courage, as well as the hope of the Gospel, we’ve cultivated a community that accepts, honors, and flourishes on vulnerability. And this has meant the world to me.
Personally, I’ve been fighting depression for the past 11 months. While I wouldn’t wish depression on my worst enemy, my mental illness has been a blessing in disguise. It has forced me to be vulnerable with my friends, with my family (real and host, ha!), and even with my coworkers. It has forced me to introspect and grow in self awareness – things I desperately need and benefit from. Most importantly, however, my depression has been an answer to my prayer that The Lord would show me my own brokenness and need for a Savior. While depression hasn’t been fun, reflecting on the truth that I need a Savior brings me to tears and reminds me of a song lyric that has been dear to me this year especially: “I see you. I hear you. Hope is calling you.”
Mirroring that lyric, my friends have responded to my fight with depression with love, encouragement, and prayer. They remind me of the truth and HOPE of the Gospel, as well as the great love that Christ has for me even when I can’t preach those truths to myself. To give you an example of this, I’ll share part of a text message my brother Marshall (also part of the Fellows) sent me after I asked the group for prayer after a hard day depression wise:
He never sleeps or takes his eyes off of you. And he rages. His righteous anger burns so hot at your depression. It angers him to the core that this world is broken and that you are being afflicted. And also thankful that Jesus thought of you in the garden. When he was grieved close to death over the proximity of his death and the cross, as he sweat blood, he thought of you, and went to the cross, rose from the dead, and is ruling and reigning over every molecule and brain wave in you right now, because he loved you.
As He sweat blood, He thought of me.
As He was beaten, He thought of me.
As He was nailed to the cross, He thought of me.
And even as He breathed His last breath, he thought of me.
Because he loves me.
This text is just a sliver of the hope that my Fellows friends have given me this year. They constantly make Jesus more beautiful to me and continually remind me that one day ‘depression’ won’t be a word in my vocabulary. They see me. They hear me. And they call me to the hope of the Gospel. I love Marshall’s words “he rages.” Not only is my Father saddened by sin, but he rages at it and its effects. I’m thankful for this reminder. And thankful that the Father’s rage was ultimately poured out on Jesus. Hallelujah, what a savior.
Recently, I’ve strung together four really great weeks regarding my depression and I believe I’m close to being healed for the time being. If this is true, it is because it is the Lord’s will. But I also think that I am close to the other side of depression because of the love and prayer my Fellows community has showered me with. So, to the Fellows: Thank you. I am honored and humbled to do life with you all. Through vulnerability, you all remind me that the Gospel is approachable. For the Gospel to be true, there must be brokenness. This is why we need vulnerability. Reminding each other of our brokenness reminds us of how beautiful the Gospel is and gives us more margin to hear and be encouraged by truth. He hears us. He sees us. Hope is calling us.
1 Peter: 4-8 “Born into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”
James 1: 2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”