This is the Day

exploring the soul's quest for joy

Tag: interruptions

When Light Breaks Through the Darkness

 

They called it a bomb cyclone; I call it forty-four hours without power. Forty-four winter hours with no heat. No light. And not even cell service.

 

We were all bracing for the winter nor’easter to rear its ugly head, interrupting our weekend plans with sheets of driving rain. We wondered if we would make it to our daughter’s lacrosse game in northern New York given the storm’s predicted snowfall there.

 

The storm ended up catching us all by surprise. Where my daughter was expecting 15 inches of snow, she got 3; we expected rain and instead got 50 mph winds and a 6-inch blanket of snow heavy enough to knock out power in 300,000 homes. The storm had caught us all completely by surprise.

 

Life’s storms are like that, aren’t they? Life is running along smoothly when an unexpected and devastating storm rips through our world, upending our tranquility.

 

At church yesterday, one of our pastors said, “Lent is a time to sit in the darkness and appreciate the light.” He was speaking, of course, about the darkness of our sin and the lightness of our savior, but yesterday, forty hours into my cold, dark experience, his words held greater significance for me.

 

In the dark, we discover what inconveniences us. And I have realized that it doesn’t take much! As evening fell, the darkness began to envelop us. We sat huddled together, pooling the light from flickering candles and beams from our small headlamps. We washed our hands in cold tap water to conserve what remained in the hot water tank for the next day’s brief showers. The first night wasn’t too bad; the house was still over sixty degrees and honestly it still felt a bit like a pioneering adventure. But once day one stretched into day two and the house hit fifty-five degrees, all sense of adventure had worn off! Without cell service, we were truly in the dark, literally and figuratively.

 

As I walked through these hours of darkness, I really did appreciate the moments of light with a more grateful heart. A walk in the warm sunshine the day after the storm. A lunch out in a warm place. An invitation from a friend to come to dinner and bring our dog! A place for a hot shower and a hair dryer on day three. These moments where light broke through the darkness were the sustaining moments that enabled us to persevere as the season of darkness lingered.

 

Glimpses of light are essential when we are walking in the dark.

 

 

I have experienced another type of darkness, an extended season when there were no respites of light breaking through. My son had just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and I was angry. Angry at God for allowing my son to get this devastating disease that took my brother’s life and has afflicted my sister since she was sixteen. More than being angry that this wasn’t my plan for my family, I questioned why a loving God would allow such an awful thing to happen to my son.

 

And so I pushed God out of my life. Stopped up my ears and squeezed shut my eyes and declared that I didn’t want to hear from him or see him again.

 

And the dark became very dark, indeed.

 

It settled in and lingered. What I first noticed was the silence. Like the stillness of my powerless house with no humming appliances or electronics, my mind went completely silent. Gone were the conversational prayers that would flow in and out of me throughout the day. But I was okay with that; I was angry at God. I didn’t mind the silence, at least not at first. But like the silence of the winter nor’easter, the silence eventually became deafening.

 

The darkness continued to settle in, heavy like a suffocating blanket from which I couldn’t free myself.

 

In time, my anger began to abate, and I sought once again this God I have known my entire life. I expected the light to break through in glorious fashion and end my exile. What I discovered instead was the wisdom of a God who knew there were still more lessons for me to learn in the dark.

 

And so the silence lingered.

 

And the darkness grew darker.

 

It’s in the dark that we really appreciate the light.

 

In the dark, we see what we cannot see in the light. Once our eyes adjust to the dark, we begin to really see.

 

And truthfully, I didn’t like what I saw. In the dark, questions loomed large: is God still good even when my world seems very bad? Or is he only good when things work out according to my plan, and devastation doesn’t hit too close to my home? With the faintest flicker of light illumining me, I saw the warped theology I had fashioned: God isn’t good all the time; God is only good most of the time.

 

I had tangled up the sorrow I was experiencing over my son’s life and health with the goodness of God. Before I could step back into the Light, I had to settle this matter of the goodness of God.

 

Slowly, gently, I began to see that God is always good, even when life is bad and terribly unfair. I needed to be swallowed up in the darkness and in the silence to truly grasp the beauty of the Light. This Light never goes out, even in the darkest of nights and the most ferocious of storms. We just need to keep looking into the Light.

 

A Light has shined in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ Saint John

Life, Interrupted

 

Life has a funny way of interrupting our best-made plans.

 

It was supposed to have been a glorious season. A capstone season. An icing on the cake, cherry on top of the sundae season. After working harder than she had ever worked, being in the best shape of her life, leading with the grit and grace that only the best of captains can, my daughter roared into her senior season of high school lacrosse ready to take on the world…and any opponent that set foot on her field.

 

US Track and Field Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell said nearly a century ago that God made him fast and when he runs he feels God’s pleasure. How often I think of those words when I watch my daughter fly up the field, stick in hand, cradling her precious cargo as she transitions the ball up to the attacking end of the field. God made her fast. He made her strong. He made her body nimble to fly up the field in joy and strength. I can feel his pleasure when she runs.

 

Yet at this moment she lies on a table in the operating room and I am trying to make sense of the last six weeks.

 

The MRI tells us the knee pain is due to a torn meniscus, a bone bruise, and a cyst response to the injury. There was no incident. There was no moment on the field when she fell or twisted or turned and knew she was in trouble. We don’t know how it all happened, but in an instant, my daughter’s life, as she had planned it, is interrupted.

 

I just have to say it – I don’t like interruptions. I have lived enough of the interrupted life to be under no illusion that I am really in control of much. And yet, every interruption still knocks me full in the face like an overpowering wave tossing me under with the weight of its surprise.

 

This interruption is no different. I rail against it, refusing to accept that my daughter will have to miss out on everything she had dreamt her senior year would be. All I can see is what will not be. Interruptions come as a thief to steal what was mine, what was hers, and to mock us for ever thinking we were strong enough to hold onto our plans and dreams.

 

All too often I see interruptions to my plan as the great enemy, and I fight against them with all of my strength. Running against the grain, I suffer all measure of splinters in the process of trying to return to normal as quickly as possible.

 

I don’t want to consider that the interruptions just might be a part of the plan.

 

But perhaps I should.

 

 

It seems the life of faith is loaded with examples of interruption actually being the plan.

 

I think of Joseph. Leaving his father’s home to deliver a fresh meal to his brothers, they betray him and deliver him into the hands of traders, selling him into slavery in Egypt. This interruption is the first of many that will lead him to become the second in charge in Pharaoh’s household and enable him ultimately to save his family from famine. While none of his interruptions – betrayal, slavery, accusation, imprisonment – were welcomed, each was a necessary step along his journey.

 

I think of Moses. Taking a walk in the wilderness, he collides with a burning bush that forever changes the course of his life. He didn’t want to return to Egypt, go toe-to-toe with Pharaoh, or lead his people to freedom. He wanted to live a simple life as a shepherd, far from the threats that would surround him as an emancipator. This interruption would also be for him the first of many that would test and try him in ways he had never anticipated or wanted.

 

Seen through the vision of 20/20 hindsight, it’s clear that these interruptions to a life plan were not thieves of the real plan. More than likely, they actually were the plan.

 

What might it look like if I would embrace life’s interruptions as part of the plan rather than constantly fighting against them in an effort to get back to my hoped-for vision for my life? I think it looks like holding my hopes and dreams with an open hand and an open heart.

 

I think it looks like intentionally letting go of control.

 

I think it looks like flexing my trust muscles so that anger and worry have no room to settle in and take up residence in my heart and mind when interruptions come my way.

 

I think it looks and feels a lot like peace.

 

I think it looks more like how Jesus handled interruptions than how his forebears, Joseph and Moses, handled them. Was there ever a day that Jesus accomplished what he set out to do, when he planned on doing it? None of his greatest healings or miracles were scheduled events as we might schedule things. They mostly came as interruptions.

 

At the end of a long day of teaching a crowd that just wouldn’t go home, he is moved by compassion to feed all 5,000 men plus their families, even though his preference was undoubtedly to be alone with his closest friends. On another occasion, traveling to heal the daughter of a synagogue official, he is interrupted by a woman who begs for healing from a bleeding disorder that had afflicted her for 12 long years. He doesn’t push her aside, but chooses instead to heal her and bless her before sending her on her way. Teaching one day in a private home, he and all those gathered with him look up to discover a lame man being lowered from the rooftop into his presence, interrupting his planned teaching, and begging for a healing touch. Without hesitation or rebuke, Jesus embraces the interruption and heals the man.

 

Jesus’s approach to life’s interruptions was to accept them, not to fight against them, and to look for ways to bless others through them.

 

This is the example I want to follow. I know this is the way to peace. The only way I can do this is by holding my hopes and dreams with an open hand and an open heart, trusting in God’s goodness and love for me to see me through.

 

As my daughter stirs in the recovery room, I realize that she has already been practicing Jesus’s approach to handling life’s interruptions. Choosing to trust God throughout this disappointing setback, she has made no room in her heart for anger or self-pity. Choosing to bless others through her injury, she has transformed her role from on-field leader to off-field encourager. She reminds me what true trust looks like.

 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

 

 

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