It is 4:30-something in the afternoon. It’s the Bleak Midwinter, so the shadows are already drawing in hard, and the little battery-powered candles in my farmhouse window are beginning their flickering glow. The sky behind us begins its daily transition from blue to pink to purple to flame. The light holds on tightly as long as it can and then relinquishes its grip to the dark. I can almost hear the sky sighing in resignation, “Ok winter. You win for now.”
I’m not a fan of these early sunsets. By 8:15 it feels like it must be nearly midnight. I can see why, a century ago in this very house, people must have had no trouble getting their recommended 8 hours of sleep. No wonder the cows got up at 0 dark 30. They probably were asleep by 5p.m. They, too, were sighing and lying down and waiting for the light.
Lately, the word Light has been rolling around in my head a lot. It has been popping up in songs I hear, in books and articles I read. I am getting old enough and less hard-headed enough to know that when this happens, I had better stop. And wait. And think about why.
I think I know why now. My family…my extended family and my little nuclear group of people…has been through the ringer the past few months. It always pains me to watch people go through difficult times and to keep having Bad Things happen to them in seemingly unfair proportion. And it pains me most when it is happening to those I love the most.
The thing is, I have prayed. I have begged. The thing is, before I did those Spiritual Things, I mostly sweated it out and woke up at night in a panic and tried to figure it all out in my mind. I did the math. I did the figuring. I did the What-If-ing. I did the stressing. Shockingly, none of that “ing-ing” changed anything. I couldn’t FIX what my people were going through. I couldn’t alter it. I couldn’t will it away.
My first instinct, upon realizing this was…ok, well my first instinct was to yell some creative language into my shower or pillow or anywhere my kids couldn’t hear them….so, my SECOND instinct was to just give up. Just resign. Just say, what the heck. This is life. Life is hard. Sometimes life keeps hitting you when you’re down. It isn’t fair. But it’s life. Now let’s all go have a good cry. And a Starbuck’s mocha.
But then things changed. That word “Light” that kept popping up? That changed everything. Because sometimes Life does throw a lot of darkness at you. Sometimes darkness seems like it is taking over the sky, the land, the house, the whole world. But the truth is, it can’t. It Can’t. The thought of darkness and resignation and defeat winning? That moved me from sad to mad. To pretty much just plain angry.
The thought of Darkness and Sadness trampling over Light and Joy? No. No way. So here’s what I have to say to Life and its dark times:
“Bring it on. BRING it on. We will make it through. You know what? We have already made it through. You won’t kill us. We will make it. And we won’t just survive. We will thrive. We will kick your tail.”
I can choose. I can choose to stand Brave. To be Light. To push back the Dark. To say, “Go ahead. You have a few hours. You have the night. But that sun is going to rise again over those beautiful fields in the morning. Those fields? They are sown with winter wheat which has been buried over and over and over again in frost and ice and wind and snow and brutal cold. But that wheat WILL push up through that ground right in front of our eyes. It will triumph. It will win. It will grow and flourish and be harvested. It has happened year after year after year. And you won’t stop it.”
The truth is, if I could stop the hard things happening around me, if I could be Hermione Granger and wave magical spells over all I love and protect them and put them in a beautiful, ache-free bubble, I am infinitely sure I would choose that course. But that choice hasn’t been given to me. So I have only one choice to make: I can be a fighter or a lie-down-in-the-driveway-and-give-in-quitter. I’m not strong. In my head, I tell myself I am. I tell myself I am supremely capable. Yet when those defining moments come, I know how utterly weak I am in myself. I know I would prefer to curl up in my bed and turn on a sound machine and hide until daylight. Or…. I can make another choice. I can remember that the darkness hides things.
In the dark, a coat in the corner becomes a monster. In the dark, the nightmare seems utterly plausible. In the dark, the scared child is inconsolable. In the dark, the sunrise seems impossible.
But the LIGHT. The Light changes everything. The Light reminds me that all is new. That we are still here. That the fever has broken. That the daylight has come.
So I want to be Light. The only way to BE light is to keep filling myself with that Light. To keep believing that the Light will always, always win over the Darkness. To read books and poems and authors and verses and sing songs that remind me that Light wins. That Hope wins. To remind myself that I can only choose death or life, dark or light. And I want to be Light more than anything.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)