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Center for Action and Contemplation
Depression and Spiritual Healing
Depression and Spiritual Healing

The Healing Work of Community and Service 

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Womanist theologian and pastor Dr. Monica Coleman writes openly about her experience with bipolar depression:  

I either felt sad or I felt nothing at all. I couldn’t feel happy or look forward to things I wanted to feel happy about. I couldn’t even remember what made me happy anymore. Feeling nothing was better than feeling sad, but eventually I felt sad. I was losing my ability to function. I had to detach myself emotionally from everything just to keep from crying all the time, and still sometimes that didn’t work. It took all my energy to get up and get dressed and be there and not cry through the day. I hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep in months and months. [1]  

In her quest for healing, Dr. Coleman joined a church-based knitting group that created items for homeless individuals. They met monthly, and—after struggling with depression for years—Coleman began to experience the presence of God again in a community dedicated to serving others.  

Revelation did not come to me in thunderbolts. God was just there. In the hot cup of tea. In the women who gathered. In our laughter. In the knitting. God was in my uniform rows of stitches. God was also in the dropped stitch that created an imperfection.… There is something holy in the movement of yarn through fingers and needles. It grounds you. It keeps you from falling through the chasms around you…. God is in every cell, every person, and every activity. Whether I know it or not. Whether it feels like it or not. God is creating. With yarn and needles, hiccups, unraveling, do-overs, a rhythm, and individual stitches, God is making something new. Something beautiful. I thought that my prayers and good intentions in knitting for homeless men were divine activity. I was knitting God into the hat and scarf. No. God was knitting me. With therapists, medication, meaningful studies, a small church community, a pastor who cared, friends who understood, and a name for my condition, God was knitting me. God was knitting me back together. [2] 

Coleman reminds us that our diagnoses do not define us but are part of our lifelong journey of discovering our true worth in God: 

I don’t want to be reduced to my symptoms and diagnosis. Tied down. I am learning the difference between captivity and rest, between an illness and a condition. There’s nothing wrong with me. After all, this is the only me I’ve ever known. But sometimes I need to slow down, check to see if I’m okay; look at the emotional heap of yarn in my lap, undo a few rows, and try again. I need to know that the things I drop, the things I can’t do the way I want, the hard parts of my life are not failure. They are evidence that I’m human. [3] 


[1] Monica A. Coleman, Bipolar Faith: A Black Woman’s Journey in Depression and Faith (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2016), 281.  

[2] Coleman, Bipolar Faith, 332–333.  

[3] Coleman, Bipolar Faith, 340. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—CAC Staff Exercise in Grief and Lamentation credits from left to right: Jennifer Tompos, Jenna Keiper, Jenna Keiper. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

On retreat, the CAC staff used watercolors to connect to our collective grief. This is one of the watercolor paintings that came from that exercise.

Story from Our Community:  

I am a hospice chaplain in ____. As a spiritual guide to the dying and a companion to their family members, there have been times in which my own spiritual longings get lost. That was especially true during the social distancing measures of the Covid-19 pandemic. In those most difficult moments, I was often alone in my home, on the phone with others. I could not hug them or offer them a healing human touch. It also meant that I did not receive the comfort of human presence. I longed for spiritual community that would fulfill my desire to connect. The Daily Meditations eased my work in those most desolate moments. They were a reminder that I was never truly alone in my home; that Divine Love surrounded me—her simple grace and compassion continues to bring awareness of the birdsong outside my window to this day. —Jon F. 

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