Survival. That’s basically the name of the game right now. I was kind of hoping for something a little more “TA DA!!” in my next blogpost. The story where a $10,000 check arrived at our doorstep, where I was bombarded from all sides with job offers, where John and I are left shaking our heads in amazement at the absolute AWESOMENESS that has been our lives these past few weeks.
Instead we’re both kind of falling out of and into our bed every morning and night. John has been working enough hours to make my head swim on top of a full load at seminary. Conversations during the week consist mainly of, “How are you doing?” (usually answered with a sigh or grunt… or tears) followed by a “What did you do?” (usually about 3,075 things on John’s list and 3 on mine). By God’s grace we still have the ability to laugh at ourselves, count our blessings, and wake up the next day to do it all over again. But we’re just tired. Tired of this season of life, tired of this trial, tired of the not-knowing. The shards of our once neatly-planned lives still cut at our hearts and we’re over it. But it appears, God is not.
This past Friday I hit a wall of frustration and resorted to yelling and swearing and crying, partly at John, partly at our kitchen cabinets, but mostly at myself. I tried the whole, get-over-it-and-get-back-to-work routine by leaving the house immediately after the meltdown and heading for Starbucks to start the job hunt all over again. I got as far as reversing out of my parking space when tears spilled down my cheeks and the Spirit said, “Stay.” So I walked back through my front door, looked at John and said, “I can’t leave. But could we maybe pray together?”
He pulled out his Bible, we sat down on the couch and he began to read from the Psalms. And I cried (again). These tears, however, came from a different part of me. It’s the part that wants so badly to be dancing in the streets with joy but finds itself resonating with the brokenness, the bitter tears, the confusion and the faith that flickers in and out of the psalms. I’ll be honest, I used to skip over the parts of the Psalms that made me feel uncomfortable. Y’all know the verses: “I wept my entire face off because I am so lost, so desperate, so much wanting to die and I can’t find God ANYWHERE IN ALL OF THIS.” (paraphrase) You kinda just wanna be like, “Yikes. Pull yourself together, bro.”
Until you start to get it.
When John read me a Psalm that ended with “darkness is my closest friend” I just thought, “Huh. I think I’m one tiny step closer to understanding that.” I’m not saying that my situation in life is hopeless. There will always, always be people who are worse off than you and whose darkness is suffocating and uncompromising (case in point: The millions displaced and grieving in the Philippines, or the thousands of children being sexually exploited as I type this).
It’s just that I think I’m starting to better understand the role darkness plays in the life lived by faith. Darkness either swallows our faith or it sharpens it into something brighter, stronger, and clearer. And at the end of the day, we get to decide its impact. We who proclaim a good God while weeping with those who weep.
During this difficult season of unemployment I’ve become more aware of the darkness. I used to think it was so far from me because I was “too blessed to be stressed” or whatever. (Who comes up with these phrases you guys? STOP IT whoever you are.) Now I’m beginning to realize that the darkness is always influencing me one way or another.
It manifests itself in lots of ways: anger, doubt, fear, grief, rebellion, despair, spite, pride, greed etc. Sometimes it lands squarely on top of you like a rogue downpour on a sunny day. You’re minding your own business and then in an instant, a phone call, a minute, you’re in darkness. Other times it sneaks in, uninvited but unnoticed. Left to it’s own devices it begins to procreate, multiply, spread, and infect until it’s everywhere and you’re at a loss as to how you ended up in so.much. darkness.
The first kind of darkness is born in our circumstances, the second in our character. While it would be easy for me to point my finger at my circumstances and say, “Shame on you for bringing all of this into my life!” it would only be a small part of the picture. The other layer of darkness at work in my life right now is the one that plants doubt in my mind, pokes at the embers of selfish anger that simmer in my heart, and laughs in delight when I choose pride over humility, escape over reconciliation, and fear over faith.
The darkness can tell us so much, you guys. But most importantly it tells us how close we are to the light. If the light can’t be seen or hope seems impossible it’s because we’re looking at the darkness instead of the clear, illuminating promises of God. Yet this isn’t a feel good post about how I’ve turned a corner and am currently wrapped in a cocoon of warm-fuzzies. Sometimes it’s really really hard to find the light.
That’s the story of my life right now. I can’t say that I like it all the time, but at least now I’ll be a little less quick in judging the psalmist when he’s drowning his couch in tears or yelling at his kitchen cabinets.