Its dark. The moments I am in light are slipping away. Daylight all around me, I wake up in darkness and go to sleep in darkness.
The state of our world pulls me away from the light. The treatment of our fellow human beings, those refugees who desire basic human rights; classification of all Muslims as evil threats to our nation; the exploitation of God’s temple of the human body through sex trafficking, music and media; disrespect for elders, teachers, law enforcement, parents, each other.
The disease that entered my body 8, 9 , 10 , 12 years ago….It affects how I respond to the darkness around me. And it invades my being and dims the light within. At times I am trapped, unable to respond to the darkness, to create light in my own heart. I want to take action. The body does not move. I want to fully partake in the communion of my church, but I struggle to reach the altar rail. I want to play music, sing praises, acclaim the power of God within me. I cannot strum, I cannot sing, I have no voice. My affect is flat.
Pain has me spiraling down. Continuous pain. My body does not sit still even for the pain. I weave and move and shake. Tears stream down my cheeks and I don’t know why. I cannot control them. Reaching out for comfort I travel paths beaten down by lack of healing and continued heartbreak. My paths take me to the refrigerator, the liquor closet, the internet, to past relationships with family,friends and lovers of 40 years ago…to memories of places where my strength and health abided….where I ran and played and rode and threw and hit and caught and raced.
Charlie and I took young Loren and Luke on a bicycling adventure to the Hiawatha Trail in northern Idaho. This 15 mile trail is reclaimed from the railbed of the Hiawatha, a passenger train that traveled from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest in the day of passenger trains. I had actually ridden the Hiawatha train with my dad on a visit to family in Iowa when I was a little girl. I have vivid memories of that train ride and still tell stories today of how I ordered my eggs in the dining car and how we sat on the track for hours after a collision with a farm implement.
We slept in our camper the night before the bike ride and then drove into the forest to find the trailhead.
Loren was old enough to ride his bike. We rented a tag-a-long for Luke which attached to Charlie’s bike frame. Luke had handle bars, a seat and pedals all his own. We knew we needed lights as the ride starts at a very long tunnel. However WE WERE NOT PREPARED for what was ahead. We didn’t think of having tail lights and we had only two head lights which were mounted on the bikes of Charlie and Loren. I followed the sliver of light in front of Loren as best as I could. It was pitch black in the tunnel. My equilibrium was messed up. I couldn’t keep straight. I rode my bike into the gutter. I got soaked by unseen waterfalls. I was frightened. I knew I needed to keep going or I would lose the sliver of light that was Loren. But I wanted to stop and get off my bike. I was ready to seek refuge in the gutter and shiver in the dripping water.
Finding the light
And then I saw it. A tiny light. I was so glad. I knew that this one light bulb lead to another light bulb and soon the string of lights would get me out of the tunnel.
Hmm. This totally is what happened these past few weeks. I got sucked into the darkness. I WAS NOT PREPARED! The dark days, the darkness of our world, the dark sadness of those around me, my own darkness pulled me down…down to the gutter of this dark seemingly endless tunnel.
But a light came into the darkness. It was a tiny light, but it grew. I saw it over a manger, guiding peoples of all nations, faiths, beliefs and orientations. Travelers throughout the ages. And it reminded me of the string of light I must allow myself to follow. My inner light is of Christ and the Holy Spirit placed there by the Father. In the sacramentals there is always a strong symbol of light that illuminates all darkness.
To prepare oneself, to always be ready, to go into automatic mode when the situation arises. Practice. When you practice that riff of the guitar over and over a million times, when you are on stage and excited and nervous you can play it. When you practice catching the throw into home, when the runner is coming in you can catch it and tag her out. When you practice prayers and praying and meditating when you need to pray you know how. When you practice healthy eating habits and you are tempted by sodas and cookies and candy and cake, they don’t taste good to you any more. When you practice patterns of movement and strengthen your body you will get up
from your fall when no one is there to help you. When you keep your mind alert you will plan appropriately for the event and see the obstacles you need to avoid. These are my head lights (and of course tail lights) to keep me prepared for the next dark tunnel
We came out of the long tunnel into the blazing sunlight of a September afternoon. We were blinded by the brilliance we saw and had to collect ourselves and recall what we had just experienced before we rode on down the trail.. Like I am doing in this post. I was in a place of suffering from my disease which I allowed to bring me to a dark place. Now I pause to recollect:
I came out of this recent darkness by picking up the guitar, remembering the outs I tagged at home and the basketball game where I hit 4 three pointers in a row, reaching for carrots and water instead of pop or candy, receiving the sacraments of my church and reciting the ancient prayers, going to work out, riding my bike, walking, connecting with friends…following this chain of lights.
And I have to keep ready.
The oil in the lamp burned 7 days for the Macabees. They did not let that light go out.
PS That light I saw, it wasn’t really a chain of light bulbs. It was the light streaming into the tunnel at the other end.