Every Illuminated Thing

73732-Lightning-In-A-Dark-Sky

 

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
    along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
    and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
    I will not forsake them.
Isaiah 42:16

 

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

 

I carry myself home in the darkened underbelly of the day, the dark side of this earth and my mood. The night is so dark even the moon and stars are hidden away. There’s no clarity between road and horizon, horizon or sky. A storm approaches in the stillness, so still and calm it’s an eerie thing like doom or death. A foreboding. It’s unsettling, almost unnatural, and your eyes narrow down in a determined focus, your ears fine-tune leaning out for unfamiliar sounds. It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop, the monster to lurch out from gaping places.

I count the miles and read the signs like minute hands on a clock, tired and worn from the day, wanting only to be home where there’s comfort and peace, lights and mood I can turn on and off at will. There’s not another soul out in this black expanse, just me and my thoughts and two feeble beams of light spilling across the road ahead. And it’s all a haze. There is no clarity, no distinction or recognition of what my eyes have seen until it’s whizzing by, merely some part of a past I only vaguely remember. I barely discern the mailbox from the sign from the deer in the ditch before it’s gone like some kind of deja vu. I hit the high beams and out there on either side of the road outlines of trees appear, their leaves become clear and distinct and oddly yellow-white by my headlights. I see them move and recognize a living thing though they are not whole, not complete, not total in form or girth. It’s only their faces I see, the part of them facing me, the parts absorbing light. All behind fades white to grey before becoming part of the darkness again, like me without these little lights ahead.

Like me left alone with my thoughts and my fears and this history dark as night.

Like me without my God.

 

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

 

I have this cat who likes to burrow into and under things: the chair, the closet, my bed covers. He’s a big boy and rarely fits all of himself into his hiding place, or pays enough attention to pull in his hind foot, his give-away tail. I call for him knowing just exactly where he is. I’m standing right there behind him, for Pete’s sake, but he doesn’t come out. He believes he’s well hidden. His tail twitches from side to side in some haughty feline fashion thinking he’s fooled me. (And I swear I hear him giggle sometimes.)

I was just the same as a child. I’d hide from Grandpa, making him come to find me before bed or a bath or just for fun (my tail twitching). Sometimes I’d roll up in a ball under my bed covers or shimmy myself under my bed or in the tiny nook under Grandma’s sewing cabinet. Sometimes I’d simply slump in the corner behind the couch and hide my face behind my hands, stifling giggles at my own ingenuity. Grandpa took his time looking about the house, calling, “Come out, come out, wherever you are”, and I’d bite my tongue to keep from giggling any louder. Sometimes he’d make round after round before pulling on my revealed toe, lifting my covers clean away, or planting a kiss on the back of my face-hid hands. And sometimes he never “found” me at all, but hollered out, “I give up!” and I’d call, “Here I am, Grandpa!” running out to be scooped up for one of his crushing, giant hugs. Eventually, though, Grandpa let me in on not so much a secret but a truth I’d never known: “You know, Girl, just because you can’t see me doesn’t mean I can’t see you.

Oh!

 

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

 

As a girl still growing-up I’ve learned that faith is just like that. It’s no phenomena, it’s truth. It’s real. It’s life with God and it’s God Himself.

But out here like this you feel so very worn and so very small, so insignificant and even plain forgotten in this vast expanse of a darkened world.

I stare into the small pool of light before me and watch the trees narrow in from either side into one hazy pinpoint before me.

And then no rumbled warning before blue-lit lightening pierces the darkness from one treetop to another, their leaves suddenly lifting and swirling and dancing in some wild-infused frenzy. Another streak splits the sky, larger and longer and so much whiter than the first but it’s weaved through and around and over and under layer upon layer of clouds, each grasping a bit of that light in highlights and shadows before it’s gone. And in that illuminated moment there is such clarity, a definition of edges, of height and depth, width and girth. Though hidden in the darkness, they exist. They are there. Though veiled and unknown to the eye, they are there, just as whole and full and distinct and real as they are in the sunniest sky on the finest day.

Lightening and thunder and dancing leaves carry on and I think back to a man who told me of his wife who’d become terminally ill. In the midst of her failing health and all the tragic and heavy day to days that drew out, and all of those weaved into the fears and anxiety and sorrows of an ending life, his wife understandably asked where was God, why didn’t He help her, she couldn’t see Him and wondered if He’d simply up and left. The man said that he’d not seen such strength in his wife in all their years. He tells me that she endured and rose above and carried in grace so much more than he would have ever thought possible. He says she softened and loved and in her diminishing state became so much more than ever before. He tells me: “She asked where her God was. I told her He’s right here, my love.

He’s right here.

Even if we can’t see Him. Or feel Him.

Sometimes it seems He’s left us.

(But then, that’s what Faith is all about; isn’t it?)

 

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1

 

I’m driving along in this bleak night thinking about these things and watching all this majesty unfold above and before me and I’m thinking how awesome is this when only moments before there was nothing but ink-black sky and murky shadows blowing by.

Nothing?

No, there’s never “nothing”. There’s always something which is real and distinct and truth and forever, even if and when we don’t see it. Just because it’s hidden or silent or still doesn’t mean it’s not there.

He’s right here. Always.

 

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

 

I look back over these recent years and all the times I felt so alone, so forsaken and forgotten and I see now the tiny moments, the huge movements, the learning and growing He was orchestrating right under my very nose. I look back now and see His work just like that blue-lit light illuminating the heavens. I sit here now and recognize the results of that work just as clearly and distinctly as the layers and layers of clouds taking shape above. And when the storm stills and the sky and earth again blacken all around, I know that nothing has gone. Not one thing. It’s all still here.

In the totality of my life I see the same. I see now what I didn’t see then and cringe at my anger and bitterness, at the years and tears, at the blaming and holding liable a God who saw me all along, a God who never left but instead walked through that darkness with me.

The God who illuminated my way.

It’s finally come to me that a sometimes-faith and a wavering-walk and all this doubting in the dark is really no kind of Faith at all.

It’s only in our falling (failing) Faith that blinding darkness ensues.

But!

But, we have the light of the world and we have Light Himself and sometimes it is we ourselves who have to do the looking. Sometimes it’s up to us to look, opening our eyes to recognize and see what’s been illuminated. Sometimes miracles and mercies are noticed day by day, and other times, especially when we’re worn and tired, frightened and ill, even angry and bitter… when we’re dull, my Friend… sometimes, those mercies and grace grow still, silent. To our eyes. To our ears. We fear they’ve left us altogether. But Light never leaves. Light is always Light and Light is always illuminating, even above the clouds, even behind the dark.

Even in us.

I think most often, most profoundly, our prayers are answered across the totality of a life, in that life so utterly and totally transformed, where we begin to watch and recognize, remember and believe; when our faith is so secure we boldly come out from our hiding place and say,

“Here I am, Lord.”

 

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,  Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:12-16