Most of us have something that has scored our soul, a darkness that we hide, or hide from until we become strong enough, or are forced by circumstances, or the heat of love to pry our fingers off the door and let the light in.
Sometimes the shadow flits so quickly across our vision that it doesn’t register as darkness. We say life is good. We don’t look back.
Sometimes it has gouged a canyon in our psyche and we think that is who we are. The lone pine, bent and twisted in the wind.
The darkness can be long-standing loneliness, the shadow of depression, chronic illness, a damaging relationship.
It can be the dread of what may come, or the fear that what we yearn for may never come.
Or fear of failure.
It can be a simple hurt, injustice or betrayal.
Or the loss of a loved one.
Whether we sing hello to the darkness that is definitely not our old friend (Song of Silence, anyone?) or laugh it away, no one survives life in our world without an injury, or two.
What do we do with the darkness, this unwelcome presence?
Does it matter?
When my firstborn had her first splinter in her finger, I sterilized a needle in a flame, as my mother and grandmother had done before me, and picked up K’s hand to tease out the splinter. She screamed before I even touched her and yanked her hand away. Huge tears followed, with pleading to leave it alone. K was sure it would come out with soaking, and without that nasty needle. Being a soft-touch first-time mother, I conceded and left the splinter to work its way out.
As I’m sure you have guessed, it didn’t. Instead, daily her finger grew redder and began to swell. The pain intensified as infection increased. Finally, she offered her trembling hand to have the nasty splinter removed. It was embedded in a very unhappy finger. What would have taken seconds the first day took many painful minutes of poking and digging with the dreaded needle.
Even if we try, I don’t think we are as good at hiding the darkness as we think we are. In spite of our efforts to suppress it, it can come out in many different ways: snide remarks or sarcasm, anger, belittling others, addictions and cravings (food is mine), depression, incapacitating fears or incomplete relationships. From meanness to low self-confidence, the darkness we suffer at some time in our lives leaves its mark.
Too sadly, it may drive us to leave an unhealthy mark on others as well. I understand the dysfunction in my father’s family, but that knowledge by itself doesn’t take away my wounds from his darkness.
I have been grateful to learn I don’t have to ignore, or accept the darkness or its effects on me. I can acknowledge it and hold my hand up for whatever it takes to rid my soul of the shadow before it can fester, or for cleansing if infection has already set in.
With the trust, and needs, of a child, I hold myself up to the Great Physician, the one who suffered far more than I ever will so he could bring light to every dark place. Heal every wounded heart. Dry every tear. Make every fractured soul whole.
Sometimes the healing hurts. Sometimes the path is way longer than we would like. Sometimes it doesn’t look like he is there at all.
In this world, he doesn’t promise perfection. He isn’t our Santa Claus waiting to deliver whatever our little heart desires.
He wants us whole, and holy. He will use whatever is necessary to clean the wound.
No matter the means, his way leads us toward the light.
Out of darkness.