Every significant broken place in my life has carried darkness with it—the darkness of suddenly not being able to see where I was or where I was heading after the pieces of what I had known fell apart.
Sometimes this darkness has crept into my life like summer gradually giving way to winter with a little more darkness in each day until I find I've gone from mostly sunshine to mostly darkness without even noticing the transition.
Other times the darkness has come crashing down in a moment like a sudden power outage extinguishing every light in my vicinity at once.
No matter how it arrives, the darkness of life's broken places brings with it all of the unknown, the fear, and the desolation that the darkest nights can bring, as I wander through what has suddenly become a forbidding, dangerous landscape without my sight to guide me.
Alone in the dark, I hear the whispers of scary creatures moving through the night all around me. Each crack of a twig sounds like a predator stalking me. Each brush against my vulnerable skin is impending attack.
Fear of the unknown beats at me, sending my heart racing and keeping me twisting around searching for the monsters I am convinced are coming to devour me.
With nothing to distract me in dark, my pain and anguish loom larger than life. Each inhale feels so saturated with it that it seems possible drown in the sea of heartache, and I can't seem to get enough air to catch my breath.
Faced with nothing but the fear and the pain and the unknown of having my life turned upside down, despair creeps in and slowly takes over, extinguishing all hope of rescue and leaving me flattened and paralyzed.
I learned early that this darkness was not my friend.
I clawed my way out of the darkness time and time again, each time determined that I would try ever harder to control my life so that I would never have to return to such a dark place.
And yet, return I did. Each time life fell apart, there came the darkness yet again.
Somewhere along the way, I began (completely unintentionally) to see darkness as a familiar companion—not quite a friend, by any means, but at least an acquaintance familiar enough to be a bit less threatening.
That familiarity allowed me to relax into the darkness just a little bit more each time it made its unwelcome appearance.
Slowly, I began to see the darkness not just as a place of unknown dangers and pain, but also as a place of mystery and possibility. It was as much the darkness of the womb preparing me for re-birth into a new life reconfigured in the wake of the broken places as it was a torture chamber of terrors and anguish.
I could move through the darkness focused only on my fear and anguish and despair and all of the horrible monsters I could imagine in a dark forest, or I could open myself to possibility of rest and healing and growth and resurrection offered by a sheltering womb.
Both of those realities are waiting for me in the darkness, and I am the one that chooses which one I encounter in any given moment.
There is a guide within me that is comfortable in the darkness and is capable of leading me through its dangers into the new possibilities it offers, if I'm just willing to listen to her guidance.
This guide in the darkness is the alter ego to the me that tries so hard to control the world to make it safe. She delights in the possibilities of the unknown, laughs at the monsters that threaten her, and dances through the swamps of despair on the light feet of trust. She at home with mystery and friends even with the darkness.
She's teaching me to see the darkness in whole new ways. I still can't say that I enjoy or look forward to my trips through the dark places, but I no longer fear them in the same way either.
I've even slowly come to appreciate the treasure that I bring back from each trip with her help to the point that I now see the creeping edges of darkness coming my way and no longer run in fear. Now I too find myself singing "Hello, Darkness, my old friend."
What is your relationship with the darkness like? How do you react to life's dark places?
What helps you survive and move through those times?
Have you ever discovered gifts in life's darkness?
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