Since I've been at home now for a couple of weeks, I have noticed an old friend paying me a visit: melancholy. As I sit on the couch and read or wash dishes at the sink, it sneaks up on me and tugs at my sleeve. It's that familiar feeling of wistfulness and longing with a hint of despondence.
I had barely noticed that my old friend had been missing for the past year or two. How sad not to have noticed the good. But I don't believe the return of melancholy is all bad. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, my melancholy is a shade of the real me. Perhaps it's been buried in busy-ness and meetings and travel the past several years but burial is not proper for an impulse so human and real.
Recently a friend of mine posted these words which are also friends of mine: "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)
I've learned in life not to run from my melancholy by denying it or stuffing it or burying it, but to understand it and hug it, as a relic of the life that we should have had and a life that we still will have. It's a pointer to the truth that this world is not all in all, but is broken and not enough. Just as gazing at the stars on a black night can remind me of the grandeur of creation and my own smallness, a visit from my melancholy can remind me of my need for God and a world beyond this house, this mountainside, this life.
Of course, depression is real and that's not what I'm talking about or experiencing. (I definitely don't recommend someone simply hug their depression.) But twinges of longing are a signal of something far off yet close, something imminent but not yet here. The gift of melancholy is the reminder that we were created for a life of beauty and purpose but that this life is broken on this side of heaven. Praise God for his Son's gift of life, that we might be fixed and fitted for another world with Him.