witness to darkness, witness to light

I want to say thank you to everyone who's sent kind words after my last post, along with thanks to everyone for your patience with my season of silence.

It feels appropriate on many levels that my interior world is dark and quiet during this season. 

First, I have my own grief to process, my own pain to bear.

Then, we are in the season of Lent, and that's often a subdued season in the church calendar. A time of reflection, a time of release, a time of darkness, a time to remain in the tomb before the resurrection of Easter Sunday.

Also, I am struck once again that I am always, because of my work as a therapist, a witness to seasons of darkness and grief and waiting-for-resurrection in the lives of others.

I am a witness to darkness and, I am a witness to light.

I'm a witness to light in my own life, healing that comes after seasons of suffering.

I'm a witness to light in the cycles of death, darkness, resurrection, and new life that all the stories of Love has written since time began.

I'm a witness to the light that shines when together we recognize the reality of darkness, stare it straight in the face, and choose Light and Love as our Way instead.

The thing I've realized over time is this: in order to be a good witness, I've got to be an accurate witness.

Culross Abbey, Scotland. photo; me and my cell phone

Culross Abbey, Scotland. photo; me and my cell phone

I've got to accurately witness both the darkness and the light, without glossing over the darkness or creating a counterfeit light.

If I I gloss over the darkness, if I try to make counterfeit light, I'll end up with quick fixes that do more harm than good. 

We've all probably had this happen to us: we try to be vulnerable about the deep pain in our lives, and somebody tells us to cheer up and stop being such a Debbie Downer. It just makes everything worse.

But if we're going to accurately witness the darkness and light with others, we've got to first do that with ourselves: go into our pain, be in the silence, learn its shape and its secrets, so that when we come again into the light, we're wholly there, fully present.

That way our witness of light is as real and as true as our witness to darkness, both for ourselves and for others.

When we're accurate witnesses, we don't have the false arrogance to believe that we're in the light because we're good people who have it all figured out.

When we're accurate witnesses, we don't malign the pain of others by suggesting that they're in the dark because they've done something wrong.

When we're accurate witnesses, we walk in the light, we lift our faces to the it, bask in its glow, we share it with others every chance we get. But we never, never think that we've somehow cracked the code and gotten this light for ourselves by our personal goodness, no matter how comforting it would be to believe so.

Something I've learned about being an accurate witness is this: not everybody likes it, and that's painful too. 

The truth is, people like to think that they have control. They like to think that they did get this light for themselves by personal goodness, perfect following, or at least by the power of prayer, for goodness sake.

The illusion of control is a safety net, and people love to feel safe.

My own story, my own experience, it often flies in the face of that safety.

People don't want to read my story and know that you can be a missionary and your husband can look at porn anyway. They don't want to know that you can love your kids and be a good parent and your kid can be gay anyway. They don't want to know that you can love God, have doubts about a lot of religious stuff, and be okay anyway.

People like guarantees and my story is not exactly full of them, which means some people don't like my story one bit. 

Until the darkness comes to their life, and they need a witness.

And then I'm here to say, I understand.

I know what it's like when the walls all fall and everything is wrecked past repairing.

I know how the pain feels, like it will drag you down and never let you go.

I know how it is, when those who said they would help made everything exponentially worse.

I am a witness to that darkness. I know every inch of it well.

And I also know the light, I'm a witness to that, too.

How the little shoots of green pierce the cold earth in the Spring.

How the ray of solstice-sun gleams down the darkest passage-tomb.

How Love emerges out of devastation, a miracle every time.

That light is Real, and that light is True, and when it shines, the darkness cannot overcome it.

I'm a witness to all of that.

And that's why I say to those who are deep in the dark, wandering a cave underground: 

Keep walking.

I'm right here with you.

I've been here before.

I recognize this bend in the tunnel.

There's light, just up ahead.

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