“I loved you at your darkest.” ~Romans 5:8
How would you describe the word dark?
What comes to mind? Does your description look different now than it did at an earlier point in your life? Is it something you can visualize in your mind’s eye? Can you smell it or touch it? It’s amazing what your senses can recall when you let them. Do they bring back a certain situation right away, or can you feel them searching for one? Does a memory of a backyard camp-out jump out at you, or does the day you struggled to just get out of your bed scratch away at the corners of your mind?
Your definition of dark depends on your life’s journey so far, in my opinion. I often write about one’s particular path; what trail God put you on, to follow throughout your earthly journey. I often speak of encountering brambles and briars, but I also write about the joy of seeing someone else join you. This morning, I realized that I had written little about the dark spots on our paths; I hadn’t explored the path’s scary corners in depth.
The scene from the Wizard of Oz film came to mind when the trio enters the darkest part of the forest while following their Yellow Brick Road. Dorothy and the scarecrow had just released the Tin Man from his metal cage of rust, and all seemed well as they sang, “We’re off to see the Wizard,” arms confidently pumping them forward as they danced along the golden bricks.
“Lions… and tigers… and bears… oh my!”
But then, we’re quickly transported further down the lane. If you look closely enough, you’ll notice that their road does not look as colorful as it did when they skipped along it. It has become dilapidated and ignored; cracks begin to show, and weeds pop up in between broken bricks. The brilliant yellow slowly becomes a dreary brown shade as they continue wandering along the pathway. Even the curb is pitted and chipped; neglected and in desperate need of attention. Soon, we see an entire tree downed and a large limb laying across the road, blocking their way. It is then that they meet the fourth member of their group. Lurking in the far corner, waiting to attack…. is the Cowardly Lion. Afraid of his own shadow, we find out, afraid of the dark.
What does the word dark mean to you?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines dark as “devoid of light; a place or time of little or no light.” It also can mean “to stop operating or functioning; to shut down.” But it also refers to times when wicked traits or desires appear. I have already written much about the first two, but let’s explore the third for a moment. Another childhood classic comes to mind, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. Alexander fell asleep with gum in his mouth, dropped his sweater in the sink, and tripped over his skateboard. He went through his day convinced that everything and everyone was against him, out to get him.
Now, what adult could not relate to Alexander’s bad day? Everyone has bad days. See how I used the plural of that word? We are guaranteed to have bad days or dark places along our life’s path. But it is when we get mired down in the murkiness and forget to look through the fog, as thick as it may seem, that the wicked thoughts find their ways into our mind’s eyes. Soon, we only see the dark. We feel the heaviness of the dark, and we quickly become used to its weight. Eventually, we don’t remember the light’s warmth and stop looking for its rays, barely noticing that our path has become a dreary shade of gloom. If we’d only stop to examine the condition of its curbs, we would see them in need of a good repair, crumbling at its edges and ready to give way to the dirt behind them. Our feet only stop when an unmovable structure impedes our way. We become grumpy, gnarled, and sometimes just plain mean. We are in the dark and forgot to bring our flashlight.
So what does the Wizard of Oz have to do with the Bible?
But guess what? Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans that just like a caring parent loves their sometimes-unlovable child, God loves us no matter where we are on our path. Whether we are in the spot where the sun shines down at its brightest or the muddiest section of our muck, God never leaves our side. He walks along beside us. Even if we ignore his presence because we’re pouting, he jumps over the thorny branches with us. Even if we beg for him to carry us the rest of the way, then throwing ourselves down in the middle of our path and holding our breath, he simply leans against a tree’s trunk until we calm down, stand up, dust ourselves off, and continue our journey.
Just like Dorothy reminds the Cowardly Lion that he is worthy of the wizard’s attention as much as she and her friends are, she tells him, “It’s all right now,” as she dries his tears with her own kerchief. And as they sing and skip down the path as a quartet, one can see, in the not-so-far-off distance the bricks turn to yellow again in the bright sun, dissipating any of the darkness from their journey, even if it’s only until the next shadow jumps out from around the bend. Because darkness is inevitable. How we handle our periods of darkness depends on what we learn along the way. Learn to trust, hope, and remember who walks beside us, lighting the way.
Rumi once wrote, “If everything around you seems dark, look again.Tweet
You may be the light.”
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