Treading the Sea of Darkness
Noisy chatter clutters the lobby. The porch overflows with sound, seeping from every crevice of the hotel, like grapes, crushed. And I? I feel alone. Wearing the mask of a smile, while my soul wrestles with the Fall. I slip out into the rain-cooled air, the cloak of night hiding me from peering eyes and piercing laughter.
How many times have I sat in a crowd of persons, even those I know, and felt the icy tentacles of loneliness? How often have I painted a smile on my lips, yet my eyes are belied by tears? Can I number the times I have listened to another’s excitement while holding in my sorrows? How often have I concealed my joy in the face of someone else’s pain? I do not begrudge those emotionally mixed moments. I do not regret that I have the privilege of of weeping and rejoicing with others. Nor am I deeply hurt that only a few look carefully into my honest eyes to see what is inside. Then I wonder, how many times have I not looked closely at bloodshot eyes? How often am I so lost in my own life that I neglect the trials and joys beneath the surface in others?
This is the Fall–this neglect of others–written large and painted in bold black. The Fall, that locks us within ourselves, isolating us from God and man. The Fall, so murky and deep as to drown us in its depths. It is the Fall that prevents us from seeing life as a whole. We see only bits and pieces of our own lives –of others’ lives– and we think those slivers are the whole story. We slosh in the muck of those black-sodden brushstrokes, seeing only a tarry mess as far as our eye-scope can reach. ‘This isn’t how the story is supposed to go,’ we whisper fiercely to ourselves, kicking to stay afloat.
But how is the story supposed to go? We think we have a decent plot. In the end this would bring God praise. Isn’t that good? Isn’t that the goal? We do not see that the darkness of sin has been made the paint for the brush, ink for the pen. The viscous stream in which we are drowning is the ink, undried. All the harrowing horrors of the Fall that dig their claws into our hearts, our homes, and our heroes have been ground into charcoal-hued pigment, brushing letters on parchment. Our grandiose plots for how our story should go are so small they invisible upon the page. We swim in the depths of merely one letter, thinking it is our entire story. The Author and Finisher of our faith sees our script from the right perspective, much bigger–yet humbler–than we ever dared to dream or hope.
Just because God allows us to be free agents in the writing does not mean that we are the author. Though He gives us the intolerable compliment of using our hands, our lips to accomplish His purposes, it does not follow that we know how immense the story, how deep the brokenness–and deeper still the redemption. We do not know how those letters, words, paragraphs, plots and subplots are being woven together to form a far-reaching tale. A true tale, meant for all the world, not only our corner of it, in this place and time.
What about the days when the narrative is dark, when we have tread the turbid waters of the Fall so long that we cannot muster another kick? Will the waves overflow us after all? God forbid! I say this fervently, yet, I am not the one abandoned by my husband. I am not left fatherless. I am not the one cast out by my family for doing the right thing. I do not have to face the long road of loneliness ahead if no reconciliation comes. No, but I can walk alongside my friends in those dark places. When they cannot tread thick waters any longer, I can hold them and swim for them. When I tire, it will be another’s turn to support them. This is the body of Jesus, working together toward wholeness, toward holiness. This one dark letter is not all that is on the page, it is not the whole story, though we or others may stick fast in one place far longer than we thought possible.
I still want to hide the holes in my soul, punctured by the Fall. I want to hide my own sin. I want to run away from the pain that the sins of others have caused me, my family, my friends. I want life to be full of good things that are delightful and do not wound. But what I need is not to hide, is not isolation. What I need–what we all need–is for “the light to shine in the darkness, and the darkness not [to] overcome it.”1
We all need times of solitude, not to forsake others, but times before God in honest conversation, times away to draw us back into the body of believers, toward holiness. Sin separates. Let us be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, then. Let us reconcile others to God by walking with them in their darkness – even when the journey is years long and the dawn is far, far off. May the light of Truth shine all over the darkness, making the Author’s story–so much bigger than what we planned or imagined–visible to the watching world.
Lost, lost are all our losses;
Love set forever free;
The full life heaves and tosses
Like an eternal sea!
One endless story!
One poem spread abroad!
And the sun of all our glory
Is the countenance of God.2