by Michelle Radcliffe
Oh Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams. -St. Augustine
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.” -Psalms 139:11-12
I sat stiffly in the armchair, crossing, uncrossing my legs, rubbing away the bumps on my arms produced by too much air conditioning and too many questions. I wiggled my toes in my heels, confined by sweaty shoes and unreadable head nods and pencil scribbles from the chair across the room.
I needed counseling. I needed help processing the events of the past year. But with every visit, I felt irritated, unresolved and frustrated—more tempted to text the last person in the world I should and no better off.
Why in the world are we talking about my childhood and my high school boyfriends and my motivations in social interactions? These things seemed insignificant and had little to do with the trauma I was lost in, desperate to sort through.
You know how a lake looks at night, inky black and thick? If you run your fingers through it, it is still just water, but somehow it seems denser in its darkness. Bleak even.
I felt myself suffocating in that thick, inky, dense darkness.
I was sobbing myself to sleep or into panic attacks. I was waking up with my skin crawling. I was either an anxious sick or a heavy numb in the day. Days felt like dark nights and nights were still darker.
The session finished and she set her pencil down and asked if there is anything else I wanted to talk about.
Too irritated I asked, “But what do I do with all this darkness.”
Charles Swindoll said that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I respond to it. Many of us suffer evils not by our own doing, but as an undeserved consequence of the selfish decisions of others. Our life, however, consists not of our sufferings—how much we suffer or how well we avoid it—but how we chose to live in and above our sufferings. Suffering is inevitable in this fallen world, but light and joy in it all is possible.
That chair across from me told me that this selfish person who had inflicted my suffering was living in darkness—and had me in his darkness with him. But I had since been set free. The truth had set me free; light had exposed the darkness, and I was free to live in the light.
But it is my choice—and yours—to live in the light that has been given.
If only it was so easy as an inspirational phrase, as an inner decision, as turning on a light switch. But a true cliché is that it is always the darkest before the dawn, and the dawn is not a light switch but a slow awakening.
Light comes by recognizing that darkness has no power over you: broken relationships, disappointed hopes, deferred dreams, shame of the past, mental illness, bodily illness, death, loss—these evils, though deserving of pain and warranting grief, do not get to forever rob your life of beauty, hope, and purpose.
Light comes from holding on tight to the God of Light, the one who crowns a broken life with beauty, hope, and purpose.
Light comes by relinquishing bitterness and forgiving, abandoning shame and receiving grace.
Light comes by conscious moment-by-moment choice, resisting dwelling on all the bad things and clinging to the good things—however insignificant they seem—seeing the blessings—however small.
Light comes by choosing joy, always.
The dawn came slowly for me; it often felt out of reach. I remember well the nights, laying in my bed, crying out, God where are you. And wondering if it would always be so dark.
But even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
In my darkest, in my numb to life, in the unrelenting clouds of heavy sorrow, God kept poking pinholes of light into my pain: the kind words of a stranger, the listening ear of a friend, flowers from the market, permission to self-care, fresh air and cool waves on a beach, the cathartic lyrics of a song, a sermon I was meant to hear. These little things—when added up—these little bits of light, began to dissipate the darkness.
And when I chose to no longer dwell in the darkness, darkness I had been freed from, and when I chose to live in the light of those pinholes, the Light burst through and overwhelmed and unburdened my soul, enlightened those dark corners of my being, and set me free and bestowed upon me beauty, hope, purpose—and joy.
And the darkness no longer seems as dark, and night is as bright as the day.