I was dating someone recently and something happened that tells me that I either need medication, my mind is getting soft, or God’s work is beginning to take shape.
The first or last options are more favorable than the middle.
Then again, maybe they’re all happening to some degree.
So I was dating this woman and I got into an argument with her. It was our first one, and it was a good one. A day later I was still kinda stewing about things…and then it happened.
I saw myself.
I mean I REALLY saw myself.
What I mean is that we usually see ourselves as the ‘victim’ or some caped crusading seeker of justice with our “justified” thoughts and actions as WE THINK they are.
Once the blinding light of my own pride, my own indignation faded…I saw there, outside of the light…a shadow…a darkness you don’t see unless you REALLY look.
I saw it.
I saw my motivations and selfishness.
I saw my anger.
I saw a hurt child lashing out in his confusion and pain…
That child was me…and it was not pretty.
As I was writing this, God reminded me of a story….so I’m going to switch gears for a second and then I’ll come back to the argument…
When I was 9 or 10, we lived in Lebanon in an old mansion that sat on the corner of Cook and Deerfield Roads. Across the street from a housing division that was being built from that corner towards the YMCA. There was dozens of houses all being built at the same time for several summers. Being the entrepreneur I was, I used to go collect the returnable pop bottles the workers would drink and discard every day. They were returnable glass bottles worth maybe 10 cents a piece and I could collect a couple bucks a day to spent the money on fish for my aquarium, orange Fago sodas, Star Wars cards, and candy.
One day a couple of us kids were playing in the houses…we must’ve been playing some kind of cops and robbers sort of game, when something I’ll never forget happened.
Someone was chasing me, think it was Kevin Revis (but could have been Mark Mason) and I was darting through a couple houses to get away. All the houses were just studs and plywood, many had no roof and I ran into this house thinking I had enough of a lead to safely hide, so I decided to duck into a basement. So, I ran through this house, jumped into the square hole cut into the first floor for the stairs, and ran down the steps.
It was summer and must’ve been mid-day on the weekend because the sun was bright and overhead, so as I got to the bottom of the steps, there was a square of bright light formed by the hole in the first floor where the stairs came down. Standing at the bottom of the steps, I stood for a second just looking into the darkness. Coming out of the mid-day sun, my eyes could not adjust, and darkness was all I could see. I could not see the walls, the floor, or ANYTHING just outside of the square of light.
I must’ve heard my pursuer enter the house, because I stepped into the darkness and put out my hands and walked blindly forward until I touched the cool damp surface of the wall. I felt around in the darkness for a place or way to hide myself but the basement was completely empty…I was trapped and turned back to the stairs and the square of light.
Whoever pursued me raced through the house and then bounded down the steps to the bottom, stopped and stood, in the square light, looking out into the darkness searching for me.
I remember seeing him as clear as if it had been yesterday…I could SEE his excited face as he scanned the dark where I stood. He took a step out of the square of light, then stopped. I could SEE and FEEL his fear of leaving the light as he tried to bring himself to challenge the darkness..and then shrank back. I could FEEL his triumphant victory slipping…slipping into fear.
…but I stood perfectly still and quiet.
He screamed out into the concrete basement claiming victory!!!!! He had found me!!!! He knew I was there!!!! His shrill child voice was amplified by the concrete walls. He had stopped at the base of the stairs, and standing in the light, he was maybe 15 feet from me and I was standing RIGHT in front of him as he faced my direction.
In those brief seconds…in that moment…I could see him PERFECTLY as he stood under the sun’s square spotlight
…but he, in his blindness…
he could not see me.
So, back to my story of needing medication or getting soft (…or both…)
Pulling these stories together….in my argument with the woman, I was the child at the base of the stairs in the spotlight of the sun. And at the base of the stairs, I was yelling in the darkness. In my self-righteousness, I was calling out my victory!!! MY win! I was demanding surrender!!!!
….but all the while, I was blind.
Now today, a day later, I am the person in the darkness. I stand in the shadow of the basement, in the shadow of time, and it’s like I am looking at myself, observing that child standing in that square spotlight and arguing with her as one in the same.
I’m looking at myself arguing with her and i can clearly see today what I did not then.
I can see my fear.
I can see my hollow victory.
I can see me searching in the darkness.
I can see myself afraid of what I cannot see.
…And it’s not a good thing to watch.
Relationships are not easy. There’s the good like comfort, love, support, companionship, affirmation, touch, camaraderie, friendship
But the good often comes with the bad like betrayal, abandonment, distrust, anger, hurt, confusion…all of these are based in fear…
In relationships, like the child in the spotlight calling into the darkness, a lot of times we have to press into our fears, our hurts….abandon our island of light and hollow victory and step into a place of discomfort and disorientation. Like a child bathed in our own blinding light, we have to step into the dark…
…that we might see the other person.
In relationships, like the child in the dark where I could clearly see my friend…God’s light often illuminates them (or ourselves) and we see clearly that they are scared and fearful. They cannot see us as they are blinded and unwilling to step into, and through their fears.
God continues to work on me and my life. It’s often hard and painful to work through dark places in my heart, places where I got hurt, where my pride has blinded me, places where someone was supposed to be safe, where someone was supposed to be our friend betrays us…but God loves us enough to take our burdens and help us lay them down.
Light is a funny thing…
Sometimes the light makes us blind.
Sometimes the dark helps us see.
I Corinthians 4.5. …”wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.”