Somewhere in the dimensions unseen, I walk the sands of time. The sun shines brightly, but the glare doesn’t hurt my eyes and the sand is cool against my bare soles. Beside me walks a man. Him I knew before I was a child, and have come to know again as the days of my life are projected across the sky. In this brightest day, which has no end, I walk afraid. Though this man is my savior, my rock, and my friend, we are not alone. My heart quivers in my chest. Lurking beneath the ocean’s tide, the darkness hunts for me, waiting for the chance we know will come.
Have you ever had a companion you couldn’t escape? A little sister or brother, perhaps, who always pestered you to play? A former lover who wouldn’t admit it was over? Or maybe the bullies at your schools hunted you, as the darkness hunts me?
I would choose this man as my companion for any journey, especially one as wrought with challenges as the journey of life. Yet I have another companion on my journey, one that does not walk besides, but hunts me from the shallows. This one I would not choose. In the mortal realm this companion has a name, but no physical presence. Here, though, it has no name, but it has a body—slimy darkness that is stronger than I am. It sleeps in the deep. It waits in the shallows. It follows us along my life’s path, spitting gloom at me with each step I take. The shadows collect like a cloying mist. Until, finally, I cannot see my way ahead.
“Take my hand,” the man says.
I grasp wildly, feeling a hand perfected by the wound that never heals. But my hand is sweaty and slippery and I cannot grip his properly. A tentacle wraps around my ankle, tugging me toward the surf, toward the abyss.
“It’s got me! I’m going under!” I scream.
“Hold onto me,” the man says calmly, yet urgently. “You are mine. I will not let go.”
He does not let go. But the tentacle is slimy, and I feel darkness seeping into my pores. My breath comes in short, desperate gasps. I have to get it off me! With one hand I push at the arm of darkness, but its grip tightens and it tugs me closer to the ocean.
“Hold fast to what you know,” he says, still grasping my hand. “I am your rock. I am all the security you need.”
But no! I don’t believe him. It’s pulling me to the water, and then to the abyss. I need to get it off me!
I let go.
I try to use both hands to free myself, but—in a moment of pure terror—it pulls me under. He can do nothing. He is stronger than the darkness, stronger than anything. But he respects my will. And I let go of him. Forever the fool, I chose once again to let go.
It pulls me through the surf and I sputter, gasping for air. I think I’m getting loose. I think I’ll beat it this time, all by myself. I fight wildly for purchase in the soft, wet sand. But there’s nothing to hold onto. I let go of the only true purchase there is in this realm.
I go under. I go deep.
My lungs scream for air. I scream for terror. Oily water fills my lungs. I struggle, for naught. It holds me fast. My heart beats wildly, then slowly gives in, turning sluggish in my chest. My lungs seize and I have no will for struggling. I am drowning in despair.
I go deeper.
The bottomless pit in the dark depths of the ocean swallows me whole. Its tentacles lurk in the shadows, ensnaring souls to trap them here. This is where its monstrous body lives. But, we are not alone. I sense there are others here, only shades to me here in this realm. Some struggle fitfully, trying to escape. Some rest in despair’s embrace. They live here now. Some quiet and subdued, others fighting and in pain, each living in the abominable abyss.
Yet I see some others, swimming for the shore. They do not live here. I cannot live here. But how can I swim without hope to breathe? I fight and I struggle. The pain makes me howl, but there is no sound in the depths of the ocean, just death and despair and darkness. My heart tries to beat in my chest, too slow, too slow. Then, a light breaks through the darkness. He sends his light and I see.
The many-tentacled thing draws back from me. “You are mine,” he says. Though there is no sound in the depths, I hear him and I feel his voice vibrate through my body.
It lets go.
I swim and swim for all my life and all my loves. I swim for my children. I swim for those who live forever on the shore. I swim for my fellow swimmers. And I swim for the shadowy souls I must leave behind in the depths. I swim for my words and my stories. I swim for the places that I love and the work I must do. And I swim for him, the bright light that shines the love of He who made all things.
I reach the surface and gasp for air, gulping the hope and the light of it hungrily into my lungs. My heart thumps, from exertion and from joy. But still, I am far from the shore. I am so far! I almost give up. Instead, I swim. I see others, and some I pass by. Like those in the depths, I cannot touch those who swim, but I see them. Some flounder and go under, back to the depths to try again or to live in despair. Others are far ahead of me, swimming through waves, wading through the surf, climbing onto the shore. He awaits each and every one.
I swim. My arms ache and my lungs burn, my heart knocks about in my chest. The pain of my struggle lures me to the depths. But I swim. The waves crash at me, threatening to break me. Still, I swim, thinking of all I have on the shore to see and do and live for.
Then, close to the shore and the promise of rest, the undertow pulls me down and out, back towards the darkness, back towards the despair, back towards where I cannot live. I swim and thrash and fight, desperate for life and light and air and peace. Then, in a miraculous moment, I break free. I’m in the surf. I stand. I trudge through the water with the waves still pulling at me. But I make it to the beach and collapse on the sand with my face to the warmth of the sun.
He brushes the wet tendrils of hair from my eyes; my heart skips a beat at his touch. “You let go,” he says gently, the admonishment full of peace and love.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, still out of breath.
He smiles and leans in close. He kisses my brow. Then, with arms far stronger than any mortal could boast of, he picks me up and holds me close. The next step in my life is his to make and he takes it, carrying me until I can stand on my own once again.
So, for now, it sleeps. But it will awaken. It will wait in the surf once more. Once more it will spit shadows at me, a cloying mist. Once more I will take his hand. Once more I will let go. I will drown my heart in despair again.
For depression is the companion I cannot escape. It stalks me still.