one eye on the dark
“Rejoicing is not the denial of bad news. It is the bone-deep conviction of news so good it will one day bring eternal relief to this ailing creation. It is an audacious act of faith in Christ and brave defiance against the darkness threatening to engulf us.” –Beth Moore
We just experienced the eighteenth anniversary of September 11, 2001. For the first time since that day, I was on a plane on 9/11 this year. I shuffled through security lines, regretting my choice of slip-on shoes without socks. I grumbled with impatience, looked around at other blank, travel-weary faces, and thought about how much traveling has changed in eighteen years. It was a vulnerable feeling during taxi and take-off; I got the feeling no one around me quite knew how to allocate their memories, either.
The truth is none of us were more or less vulnerable on airplanes because of the date we were flying, we just felt it more acutely. Even those of us not personally touched by the loss still remember the twisting fear in our stomachs, the cotton-mouth of terror and worry, and the moment we realized we’d never get that innocence back. But this collective, national trauma landed on hearts that also house individual trauma.
It didn’t matter who we were or where we were; that day broke our hearts and our trust and stole our innocence. We have since spent so much time trying to avoid that kind of pain and fear again. And for many of us, the best way to protect ourselves is to keep one eye on the darkness. Oh, we play on the floor with our kids, catch up with friends over coffee, laugh about our recent Netflix binge, but we’re never fully looking at the present. We’ve got one eye fixed on the darkness that we suspect is just over the horizon. It’s almost as if we’ve never moved on and we’re still the younger, terrified versions of ourselves from that day. It’s this part of us that still runs the show, trying to protect itself from ever being as hurt.
This feels wise, responsible, and protective to the wounds we bear. And yet, there is nothing braver than bringing our wounded self to Jesus and walking into one risk at a time as our adult selves. The alternative is a bent and rigid cynicism, closed off to the joy that only real risk can bring.
I have a client who struggles with chronic anxiety. She describes it as a hyper-alertness, a feeling like she expects hard things to happen that she must carry and manage on her own. One way we have tried to re-wire her uneasiness is to have her scan rooms, circumstances, and situations for helpers: people doing good, people being resilient. There weren’t many helpers in her early childhood, less than a handful. The scary adults were louder and stronger. And it challenges her nature to give power to the light, rather than stare into the darkness. Yet in her adult suffering, she has learned that no darkness has ever proved bigger than God’s merciful provision. And she is her most stunning self when she walks into risks rooted in that knowledge.
We only know our full weight when we accept the requirements and vulnerabilities of adulthood. But the best adults I know are those who face the hard and painful as it comes, yet they play with abandon. They set their eyes on the present moment and on Jesus. Whether it is getting on another airplane, choosing to trust a spouse when you’re really afraid you’ll be duped, stopping a chain of tasks to sing with your child, risking another date or an honest conversation with a parent, look into what is at this moment. Invest in that and trust the Lord to bring resurrection when the darkness comes.
Meredith joined The Barnabas Center staff in January 2009, upon completing her Masters in Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and her Bachelors in Religion and Psychology from Furman University. She counsels, leads women’s groups and teaches a seminar called “Hope in the Darkness” for those walking with individuals suffering from depression or bipolar disorder.