December 3: the second day of Advent 2018
The Dark night of the soul, like the refining fire, is an experience we faithful followers of Jesus undergo as our loving creator purifies and frees us of everything that both entangles and prevents us from becoming everything we were created to be.
I am an exhausted caregiver, confronted by the decline of my beloved mother-in-law. In my humanness this decline seems so unnecessary but at the same time is totally beyond my ability to control or even truly influence in any significant way. She too is a beloved child of God who has lived long and well, serving Jesus as best she knew how. Now Alzheimer’s is steadily eroding her mind and her heart is weak from permanent arrythmia and congestive heart failure. And so, she is quickly losing her strength and will to continue her walk among us.
I am a spirit-filled follower of Jesus who gave up on possessions, reputation and career over a decade ago, leaving all that behind to follow Him. Mind you it began with a major period of chastening where I paid the price for serious mistakes I had made in my family, mistakes which cost me everything. But in the aftermath, I chose not to rebuild but instead walk humbly with those He gave me to share this journey I have come to call mutual transformation.
The Spirit works within each of us who are so called, stripping us seemingly bare then healing and rebuilding us into the gift we were created to be.
And so I met and began walking with Claire, and later with Jane who became my wife. Shortly after we were married, we took on the care of her parents who at the time were both suffering from early dementia and needed support in staying as independent as possible. For the past 3 years they have lived with us in the home we bought to share with them. During this time, I have been the house husband and the manager of care for these beautiful souls. Now, with 20-20 hindsight, I can see that as I am a talented and compassionate man there was a lot of what my brother calls “doership” in the care I provided. But pushing and doing from my own strength has finally brought me smack up against my limits, tumbling me into this darkness, this anxious and depressive space in where finding my connection with my creator is much more difficult. Though I find myself taking more and more recourse in wine in the evenings to manage my distress, I am still totally committed to my heavenly father, to being led by his Spirit, to following Jesus in everything I say and do. And so this darkness, anxiety and depression have been difficult. Nonetheless it has been my practice for years now to walk through these emotional storms rather than practicing avoidance or escapism.
The scripture I offer for reflection today is verse 10 of chapter 50 of the prophet Isaiah, a prophet who lived and walked with his people over 2500 years ago:
Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on their God.
Now for Isaiah and his people, and for centuries before and millennia since, our God is a God of light who brings light into the darkness, a light that cannot be quenched. Yet here he is saying even when things are dark, when nothing is turning out as expected, when everything seems disastrous or overwhelming, in the middle of this experience trust your creator and rely on the One in whom we live and move and have our being.
When things are not going well, when countries are collapsing, when morality has been thrown out the window by our leaders and by an increasing number of people in the streets, nevertheless more than ever in these times trust in your creator, in the Lord of creation. So when things are not going well in your family and seemingly nothing you do can prevent the decline and death of the one you hold dear, in just such a time rely on your creator, on your heavenly father who will continue to do what he does best, which is to work out everything to your good and to the good of those who are faithful in their walk with him.
Whatever the darkness and confusion you are experiencing in this life might be, whatever suffering you are undergoing or have undergone, know that the darkness always gives way to the light. Keep to your path, stay compassionate, stay true, and walk faithfully according to the light you have been given and the dawn will break into your darkness. The freedom you will gain will be worth the suffering you have endured. Whatever comes, keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep trusting, keep doing the right actions as best you know how and more and more be open to guidance from deep within you and from all around you, as the One will never rest until you are free and a shining light yourself.
Walk on dear soul, walk on…