Monday, 25 June 2012

Through the Darkness

Sometimes the way up is down. Sometimes what God says makes sense doesn't make any sense. When I was little I used to wake up in the middle of the night, thirsty. I would have to crawl out of bed and tiptoe into the hallway and down the stairs to the kitchen to get a drink. The stairs were always dark and the creaky steps scared me. I imagined werewolves and shadowy things behind me on the steps, and I hated walking forward into the darkness. Even as a child, though, I knew that in order to get to the moonlit kitchen I had to just put fear in my pocket, hold onto the rail, and go down. Sometimes the way to the light is through the dark.

Moving to another country has been, in many ways, far more challenging than I expected, and for totally different reasons than I expected. I thought the "hard" would centre around stuff I am good at - like being flexible, being able to appreciate other perspectives, eating weird foods, smiling when I don't feel like it. It hasn't. Instead, fears I never really knew I had have come crawling out of the dark.

I am discovering that one of the things I fear most is not knowing. Not the unknown, but just not understanding what is going on; not knowing what to do; not knowing why, not knowing what is coming next, not knowing how to react. I've always been a little antsy about information; I like lots of it, and I get frustrated when I feel like I have too little. But I really didn't imagine myself as fearful, and I never thought it would run this deep.

As it turns out, I find myself in the situation of not knowing pretty often. There is a big difference between not knowing exactly, and not knowing at all. Not knowing at all is like getting punched in the gut. It makes me feel dazed and surprised and hurt. Bafflingly, the One who loves me best is letting me hurt. He has overwhelmed my understanding and my ability to analyse. I am often fearful in ways I never really experienced before. Oh, I'm not such a newbie that I haven't experienced the raw fact that God's way is always good...not just generally good, but my good.  I know that He cannot give me any less than Good. I know that there is no good left for Him to withhold, now that He has given, for me, His own precious Son. I know that no evil can touch me that He does not allow, that is not the means to a greater good. I'm not afraid of the end.  I'm afraid of what I'll have to go through to get there. I'm afraid that I won't know how to respond. I'm afraid that I'll make mistakes. I'm afraid that I'll be embarrassed. I'm afraid I'll mess up something. I'm afraid I'll hate myself for being such a bumbler.

It's easy to get tricked by fear. The creaks in life's stairs have sent spectres scurrying behind me every step. Once secure in the knowledge that I was God's favourite child, (You'll forgive me if you, too, have known what it is to be his beloved...) lately I am full of melancholic doubts about my worth and blind to his encircling love, his care for me as a person. It looks foolish when I put it in print like that, but when I find myself gasping for breath in the icy grip of fear, any horror seems possible.

I have talked a lot in this blog about faith, mostly about what faith isn't. Faith isn't believing that God exists, or wishing and believing that I'm going to get my wish. Faith isn't just taking a wild leap. Faith is this: taking a step based on what I know, and then another step, and then another one. Faith is putting into practice the truth I am sure of. Faith is walking straight into my fear because I know the God who calls me will hold my hand, will make it right, will work despite my mistakes, will love me anyway. Faith is betting the farm (or my pride) on the fact that God loves me deeply and is right now giving me Good, no matter how bad it feels. Faith is being willing to go forward without understanding, trusting that the One who loves me will not let me go wrong.

So my Father and my Friend bids me come with Him through the darkness and into His light. I am tired and scared and it is a struggle to remind myself, again and again, that He goes with me; that my job is not to get it all right, but just to hold tight to His hand and be drawn along with Him. I keep losing perspective, distracted by this sense of going deeper into darkness. But this is the way I choose Him. And when I hurt, I remember that He hurt, too. He chose that hurt for me, and I will choose this hurt for Him. I will trust Him. I will let my love for Him cost. I will have His best. I will have Love, though it feels like hatred and humiliation and I feel like a weak fool. He will fight for me. He is just. He will make it right.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5,6)

He's not asking me to be right. He's not asking me to understand everything and respond with all the wisdom and maturity I wish I had. Instead, He asks me to go with Him, letting go of all the comfort of understanding. This is hard for me. It is hard to still my whirling thoughts, my struggling to comprehend and sort and plan. It is hard to accept the humiliation, even in my own eyes, of trying and failing, of doing badly what others do with confidence and grace. It is hard to keep reminding myself that this is not about what it appears to be about. It is hard to stop trying to find an easier way out. It is hard to keep from trying to fix things my way. It is hard to wait for His resolution.

The Lord longs to be gracious to you;
He rises to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him! (Isaiah 30:18)

"I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light." (Mary Gardiner Brainard)

Like the child-me, I am learning to walk forward into the darkness, not holding the stair-rail, but holding onto the Lord Jesus, trusting Him that this is the way to the light. This is the way to knowing Him.

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