Vault: Into our Darkness, Come

On Mondays, I’m going into the vault, reworking an old post, and then reposting it with some comments attached. This morning’s post comes from December 16, 2013. I don’t remember the circumstances that led to this post – I changed the details to make it relevant – but the thoughts are still true.

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Jennifer was standing at the counter addressing Christmas cards a couple days ago and asked how she ought to address one card. “Has she gone back to her maiden name or is she still using her married name?”

Ugh. We both hurt so much for our dear friend and the pain she’s experienced this past year. And somehow, Christmas, a season of JOY! and SINGING! and FOOD! and IMPORTED ITALIAN TWINKLE LIGHTS! highlights all of our dark, broken places too.

Perhaps it’s my age, but I’m increasingly aware of the dark battles people fight. I’m more aware that although people may be smiling outwardly, inside they are full of conflicted thoughts, dark, stormy emotions. Again this year, I’ve had front row seats as friends’ lives and marriages imploded, lain in bed with my wife discussing, contemplating, asking questions of our own to the dark, and I’ve sat over beers with many others doing the same, late into the night.

I used to think this was the exception, but I don’t believe it anymore. This is reality. The reality is that life is a mixture. Always. It’s never all sunshine, but it’s seldom only clouds. Shauna Niequist describes it in language that this foodie can love: bittersweet.

This is where I admire the beauty of the longest night liturgy. If you’re not familiar with it, Longest Night is a service dedicated to those who suffer. It’s a time in the church calendar (the day with the shortest amount of sunlight) to remind ourselves that there are those who hurt, and to remind ourselves to make space for them, too.

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To those who this year grieved the passing of a loved one, the death of an idea, an ambition, a goal, a dream or a job you actually liked;

to those who battle the heavy tentacles of depression and find it hard to get out of bed, even on a sunny morning;

to those who feel like they’ve failed at love, marriage, work, parenting, friendship or just life in general;

to those who don’t have much to look forward to in the coming year, who secretly resent all the holiday cheer, who dread time with certain family members who only seem to reopen wounds they’ve worked so hard to mend;

and to those who stand in solidarity with anyone who has felt any of these things this year, who hold open space for hard, teary, awkward, uncomfortable conversations, who choose to embrace those who mourn rather than retreat –

This is my invitation to come sit with us in the darkness, and to remind ourselves of the hope we have that God will someday make all things new.

You don’t have to attend our church on a regular basis. You can just show up this Tuesday Wednesday (2016 edit) night at 7:00. There will be some Scriptures read, prayers said, and then space for you to light candles in honor of everything and everyone you mourn and grieve.

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I’ve written in other posts about the darkness of my own journey over the past couple of years – especially 2015 – and one of the most important things I think I’ve learned is the importance is naming – as truthfully and accurately as I can – what is happening inside of me.

This is what we pay therapists $125/hr for.

This is the environment that I hope to create when people come to my office; a safe cocoon to say what’s most true.

This is what our very best, most intimate friends are for – pushing us to say more and patiently holding the space until we find the courage to speak our truest truth.

They hold space open for us to name what is most true inside of us. And sometimes our truths are super-awkward. Sometimes, they are angry and profanity-laced. Sometimes there are not yet words for our truths but only hot, fat, ugly tears.

Holding space for others means that we sit with their truth. We ask good questions – open-ended, without hidden agendas – to gently help them find their next layer of truth. Holding space for others means we chase them down when they get too far away, and we wait patiently for the words to come, refusing to be put off by strong emotions.

Holding space for others means we touch them. We hug them. We remind them they are loved and they aren’t alone.

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In this season of light may you find a safe space for your grief. May you find a church service, a pastor’s office, a friend’s couch or the soft embrace of a lover to be a place where you can name what’s most true. And in that sacred space may you know to the depths of your soul that you are not alone, that we all have our hurts.

In it together.

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