Every year in October, my church holds a Reformation Day celebration. In case you’re not familiar with Reformation Day, it’s a day to remember the contributions of Martin Luther and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Technically, Reformation Day is recognized October 31, the same day as Halloween, but we chose to hold our celebration right after church this past Sunday.
Before anyone gets nervous, the point of this post is not to bash Halloween or Catholicism. The Protestant Reformation, however, did exactly what its name implies – it reformed the church as it was currently functioning in Luther’s day. It’s not easy to reform something, whether it’s a religious structure or a warped piece of pottery or a twisted mind. As in Luther’s case, sometimes God is the only one who can successfully do it.
As momentous a movement as the Protestant Reformation was, though, I’ve never been able to work up a lot of excitement for Reformation Day activities. For one thing, people are encouraged to dress up in period clothing, and I’m way too self-conscious for that kind of thing. I look goofy enough in modern clothing; I can’t imagine myself suiting up in some kind of monastic robe. There’s also usually this kind of odd mix of highland games, raucous singing, and country dancing, none of which generally pique my interest.
This year, though, things were a bit worse than usual. A number of factors lately have had me in a funk, and when I get in those moods I tend to want to hole up somewhere away from human contact. Of course, as author Richard O’Connor put it in his book Undoing Depression (which is sort of becoming like my Bible for depression-related issues), “One of the bitter ironies of depression is that depressed people crave connection with other people, while the nature of the disease makes it impossible for them to connect.” In other words, the very thing that might me feel better when I’m in one of these moods is the very thing I want to avoid.
Something was different this year, though. Maybe it was because the sun was out, and the temperature was over 80 degrees for most of the day. Maybe it was because there was less emphasis on yelling like wild men and more attention shown to exactly what Luther and the Reformation meant. Maybe it was because I actually got on a log this year and tried to knock somebody else off of it.
Or maybe it was the Virginia reel.
The Virginia reel is a folk dance that dates back to the 17th century. I say this to make it seem as if I know anything about the dance, which I can assure you I do not. Through much cajoling and peer pressure, though, my wife and I found ourselves in a line of other couples, children, and adults preparing to learn the steps. We stopped after a couple of rounds because our youngest daughter was getting a bit fussy, but we actually enjoyed ourselves quite a bit.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, you read that right: I danced a little bit, and I sort of liked it.
I’ve struggled quite a bit with facing reality lately. As I mentioned in a post last week, I’ve been retreating into my smart phone too much lately. I’ve read books, watched movies, gone for long walks… Nothing wrong with these activities in themselves. The only problem is I can do every one of them without anyone else around. I prefer to think of myself as introverted, a loner who would prefer to be, well, alone. In reality, though, I need people just as much or more than anyone else. It wasn’t the dance that brought me out of the doldrums Sunday. It was the people and their laughter and smiling faces. Real people I could hug and shake hands with … or even avoid if I felt like it.
I hate to hear people talk about “comfort zones” and stretching yourself and things like that because I never feel as if they really understand depression and social anxiety. It all seems so easy for them and so difficult for me. Truth be told, though, they do have a point. Sometimes it might take a reformation or a reel to do it, but reconnecting with reality is always a worthy endeavor. It doesn’t mean you have to be the life of the party or even be at the party, but it’s out there for you somewhere. Put on your dancing shoes and find it.