Where is God in the Dark Hours?

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“I would walk through weeks of darkness with no one to hold my hand. Because the only one that really could fill the void was behind her own veil of darkness.”

It’s slotted in there with my earliest memories. I’m seven or eight, walking home from school and wondering what I’ll find when I walk through the front door.

Will she greet me with a smile? Will she greet me at all? Will I find her in a corner somewhere with red eyes and mascara streaked down her cheeks?

And when I would think of the latter scenario, my heart would always begin to pound with anticipatory anger.

This was another of those days. The sun was beating down on the hot sidewalk so I rolled my woolen socks down to my ankles and untucked my shirt from my skirt.

I walked through the door and called her name. No answer. Searched the lower floor of the house but couldn’t find her. Went into her bedroom and found her sitting on the bed, silent tears slipping down her face.

I wanted to run before she noticed me, go shut myself in my bedroom, sing Barbara Dickson’s “Caravans” into my hairbrush like seven-year-olds love to do. (I didn’t have a regular seven-year-old’s taste in music.)

Drained

If she’d greeted me at the front door I would have told her about how lonely I felt on the playground that day.

If she’d hugged me and asked how my day was I would have soaked up that motherly love and my memories of the playground might have slipped away.

But instead she grabbed onto me and quivered with tears and I felt all the love being drained out of me like a pink fluid and being replaced with … nothing. I would listen to the loud swallowing motion in her throat as saliva struggled to find its way, and inside I would be screaming,”What about me?”

I didn’t understand why her tears made me feel so bad, why I wanted to shrink away from her.

It took a long time to realize what my small mind was trying to articulate: I don’t want to be around this person. I want to be filled with love, not drained of it. I want to be the child, not the comforter.

As I journeyed into puberty, I started to see the younger version of that same sad person in the mirror. That reflection looked normal to me. But I knew it didn’t look like the faces of my friends at school.

I would walk through weeks of darkness with no one to hold my hand. Because the only one that really could fill the void was behind her own veil of darkness. And to my cool friends who were focused on pop bands, I needed to “lighten up.”

And so began the affirmation: No one wants to be around a sad person. With a forced smile on my face I would walk the school grounds with those same words whispering across the wind.

This was my truth. Because I didn’t want to be around her unless she was happy.

Time and distance

Now it’s thirty years later and I still sometimes feel that invisibility and sadness.

And still I tell myself the lie: no one wants to be around a sad person.

Since immigrating to Canada from the UK, starting a family and, eventually, finding God, there is more light than darkness, more hope than fear.

But this “thing”—these engravings on my heart that periodically reappear to rend me powerless all over again, still find me across that vast ocean and steal the light from my day.

And my biggest fear is that my children will walk through the front door after school on a hot summer’s day, call out to their mother and eventually find her alone, tears slipping down her face. And they’ll want to tell her about their day but she’s too far away. And so they’ll walk away, because they don’t want to be around a sad person.

Dark hours with God

It happened again just recently, an attack that hit from every angle. The year was barely out the gate and I found myself back at the bottom of those stairs. The desire to live rather than just exist, had melted away.

I thought this time it would be different. Because this time I knew God. But I’m still young in my relationship with Him, like a fledgling baby bird who needs her wings to be stilled for a while, instead of flapping around in a panic because the “darkness is back.”

And so we’ve been hanging out, God and I. And God’s been showing me the lie, keeping me in the darkness until I understand what it means to be here. Teaching me that sometimes in dark places, joy has to be a choice.

This time it is different.

I feel God close to me, leading me through the shadows rather than letting me walk away. Drawing me closer to him until I can be still in this place. Until I can walk out of the fear, pain and lies holding his hand.

And I’m wondering if maybe the kind of darkness where God is present, isn’t really darkness at all.

The early light is breaking

The morning sun is waiting in the sky

And I think I’m gonna break away

And follow where the birds of freedom fly

I need to give, I need to live

For the world is slowly turning

And the lights of love are burning in my eyes

From: “Caravans” by Barbara Dickson

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Creative Commons image courtesy of Flickr.

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