Treasures in the Dark
I might just this time, hit “post” on this entry. It’s been brewing, and written and re-written since somewhere before the end of January. I haven’t wanted to publish it, mostly because if I did hit publish, I would have to mean what I say. And I wasn’t sure if I meant it or not. Til now. After some recent events in our life, both in seeking out new ministry opportunities and a tragedy in one of our children’s first families, I have felt this strange and growing awareness that indeed, ‘everything means something’. Sometimes we can’t fathom what that something is in that moment, and now, almost six week since my initial epiphany about this, I honestly still don’t know.
stuff is happening, most notably a change in my spirit, the heaviness lifting as day after day I look forward more and more with a sense of the old optimism, even though it feels as if we have by no stretch of the imagination been living from crisis to change to crisis. And still…the lightheartedness remains, even in the middle of it. Stuff like what has happened these last two months even a year ago could have really set me back in my ability to cope. I’m not sure what it is, except I’m trusting it is God, and the power He has to make all things new.
And to help us all find “treasures in the dark”.
So onto the post…
Let me set the stage for you of that dark afternoon in January. I’m less than three weeks post-op from my hysterectomy, really feeling the weariness of constant pain and healing. I’m struggling. I’m tired. I’m sad. My shoulders felt like I’m carrying a backpack full of stuff of which I can’t define, but cannot throw off. My head won’t stop thinking even though my body needs to rest, but rest does not come.
I’m torn…torn about what to do with all this. And even more, what to do with all the hope and determination I have put into my dream of having my family. My family is here. We’re this miraculous family of strangers. Against the odds, here we are, a family. Dreams do come true. They do. Hope has gotten me there. I should be able to embrace that and let the rest go.
And then I face these moments, where all the distractions in the world don’t cover up the not-knowing of what I do with all that has happened. Surely, no…surely, the struggle, the pain, the loss, the twistiness, the crying out, the pushing through, the learning … surely it means something. It has to doesn’t it?
The room is dark, curtains drawn against the twilight sky outside. I can hear my kids playing out in the living room, my mom making supper, the TV on. I lay there in the dark, listening to a book on CD from one of my favorite series of books by Jan Karon. (if you’ve never read her Mitford books, you are missing out… they are like soul retreat for me).
One of the central stories from A Light in the Window (the second book in the series) surrounds the attempt by Edith Mallory (picture Cruella Deville), the small town villainous, to close down the Main Street Grill, in business for over 30 years, in order for her to put in a clothing store. The Grill is a local gathering place and for Father Time (the main character), it is a place of friendship and solace, especially during his fifteen years there as the Anglican priest living single in a small town. And as happens over and over in the books, Father Tim is called on to try to solve the problem between the Grill owner and his landlord. And in the end, it seems that the evil landlord is going to win regardles of their efforts. It doesn’t make sense, but there is no way around it, and to everyone involved, it seems a waste that after so many years, such a central part of main street would be gone.
It’s finally moving day. Everyone is there to help out their friends, both in the physical move and with moral support. Father Tim finds Percy, the grill owner, down the hatch packing and they take a break. And the following conversation happens as they try to make sense of this big change in Percy’s life… (taken from A Light in the Window by Jan Karon, (c) 1995 Penguin books, page 322-323)
“You can do it”, says Father Tim.
“How come I have to – that the question. Where’s th’ Lord when you need ‘im is what I’d like to know.”
The hot coffee cup warmed his (Father Tim’s) cold hands. “Right here”, said Father Tim, “with us, believe it or not.”
“You’re a preacher. That’s easy for you to say.”
“Not really. I have time of doubt. I stumble around…”
“All that schoolin’ you had makes a difference.”
“Schooling doesn’t count for much in the end. What counts is our personal relationship with God. Period. Bottom line.”
“I prayed about this.”
“You’ll get an answer.”
“This ain’t any kind of answer.”
“I have to tell you that he always answers. And he always shoots straight.”
“Well, he’s done shot and missed, if you ask me.”
The rector looked around at the dark dismal basement. “Somebody said the brightest diamonds grow in the darkest cavities of the earth…”
“In Isaiah, God said, ‘I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord…’ Times of darkness can be some of the best times.”
I stopped listening to the story at that point, as tears flowed. It seemed to me in that moment in the darkness, both in my darkened, quiet bedroom and in my sad, tired heart, there it was…
There it was, the possibility that maybe in the darkness that has been a part of this whole journey, there are riches stored somewhere in the middle of it. It’s for me to dig out the diamonds, and then to trust God that I’ll know what to do with the gems ~ of what I have learned, how I have allowed God to change my heart and perspective, the friendships, relationships from which I have benefitted for being on this journey… all of it…
Was it treasure? Even the dark stuff in the bottom parts of my heart? Was God storing up riches in places I could not yet see? Was the next leg of this journey all about digging those treasures out, dusting them off, and sharing them with others so that they (AND I) could see that God is God and He is Good, and everything means something, and it’s alright.
I lay there for several minutes in the dark and quiet as the CD shut off. Tears dried up. And I knew that somehow that with the closure of the actual experiencing this journey through infertility, and loss, and all that it has brought to my life, both wonderful and hard, maybe the next step of the journey was in the search for…
Treasure in the dark.
Am I up to that task? Do I really want to do this, to share more of this journey, to actually find what others might glean and speak to it in order to make a difference? This all can’t just be about the heartache of it. And I know for certain it is not about God, the Villain, trying to do an evil thing in my life.
So maybe it’s my time to make the best of times out of the darkness. I hope so. I hope I’m up to the task of getting on with it, of plowing through whatever grief is left and settling into reconciliation with it all, and then finding a way to share the hope that I find. I hope I’m up to it. I trust that I am, with the help of God.
Isaiah 45 says: This is what the LORD says: “I will go before you, Cyrus, and level the mountains. I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness— secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name. “And why have I called you for this work? Why did I call you by name when you did not know me? It is for the sake of Jacob my servant, Israel my chosen one. I am the LORD; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the LORD, and there is no other. I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things. Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness. Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together. I, the LORD, created them. “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim,’How clumsy can you be?’ How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?’ or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?'” This is what the LORD says—the Holy One of Israel and your Creator: “Do you question what I do for my children? Do you give me orders about the work of my hands? I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the stars are at my command. I will raise up Cyrus to fulfill my righteous purpose, and I will guide his actions. He will restore my city and free my captive people—without seeking a reward! I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”
There is so much more to unpack from this passage, things I have discovered in the days since this moment in the darkness where I felt God revealing his new purpose (as vague as it is for now) for me. And I hope I’ll get the chance to do a bit more of that as time allows in the days to come.
But for now, I DO hit post, and begin again on this journey to find… treasures in the dark.