A Great Light

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2, ESV)

As we close the chapter on another Advent Season and another year (some would say the “mother of all years”!), these words from the prophet Isaiah echo again the hope of the world: that Light has come, and darkness cannot overcome it (see John 1:5).

I don’t know about you, but for me this historic year, 2020, has seemed particularly dark. It wasn’t just learning to live through a pandemic, as the streets became quiet and everyone holed up in their houses, scheming to find a source of toilet paper. As church went online and group meetings became Zoom meetings, we all felt the darkness of isolation. There were many adjustments for all of us, and we’re still reeling as COVID makes a strong comeback surge during the holidays. I hope that the most important lessons we are learning are that we are resilient, that we need each other, and that our God is faithful and still in control even when things look darkest.

It’s been awhile since I shared any thoughts on this blog because it has been a year of personal darkness for me. I started the year as a brand new retiree, looking forward to beginning a new chapter – a new adventure. I was finally free of the day to day grind of earning a paycheck, and I was looking forward to the chance to try some new things: writing more, learning the cello, working on landscaping our new place.

What darkness did I hit then? These opportunities were real, and in one sense, all I needed to do was pursue and grasp them. In one word, I ran into myself. Some sage once quipped, “Wherever you go, there you are.” I had never found that truth more true! Through work done in change groups, I began to understand – finally – just how stuck I was, how bound I was by childhood trauma that I had carried all my life. It became clear how my early life responses to that trauma had played out over decades, causing me to make really bad choices and hurt those I loved. Living in that space of supposed safety had actually insulated me from true love – true relationship with God my Father and with everyone else important in my life. Those fight or flight responses that helped me survive early trauma had only set me up for failure in adulthood, in everything from relationships to vocation (or lack of!).

So, when I thought I was set to enjoy a grand new adventure, I actually was given the opportunity to finally face myself. And there is some scary stuff in here that needs to come out and see the light of day to truly be healed. I am working now on leaving behind old coping behaviors that were supposed to protect me (and maybe did in the very beginning) but only destroy me now, at age 61.

Is there light then? “Ya, you-betcha!” my wife’s Norwegian forebears might have exclaimed. Is there still work to do? Yep, lots. Is there hope? Astounding and unlimited hope! As long as I keep trusting, pressing, fighting. Running to the danger, into the darkness. Because as I run toward it, not away from it, the darkness will surely shatter.

I’ve seen a Great Light.

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