On a partly cloudy Monday, with a 20% chance of rain for the forecast, an announcement came over the loudspeaker at work, "Severe thunderstorm warning for the next 2 hours." I emerged from my windowless office to look out the glass windows of the front entrance. It seemed innocent enough with partly sunny skies still visible. Returning to my desk, it wasn't long before the lights started to flicker. Then, the barometric pressure dropped with a thud, it seemed, right into my lap. Packing up my laptop and phone, I walked to the lobby and discovered that day had turned to night, and the trees outside were bending under the power of the winds. Meteorologists called it a "derecho" or sometimes referred to as an inland hurricane. It is fast-moving, wide-spread, and brings with it a long duration of highly sustained winds.
As the treacherous storm exited the area, it left a swath of destruction across the state of Iowa. Power outages impacted thousands. Trees were uprooted and broken. Shingles and siding were torn from houses. Broken windows and debris were everywhere. People impacted by the storm wandered from their homes and businesses to assess the damage. Those who had experienced minimal ruin helped those with more damage. Others stood motionless, unable to fathom the devastation left behind from the unforeseen storm. I fared pretty well in the scheme of things, with only a large branch that had fallen into the back window of my car while parked at work, and a tipped over grill at home.
Looking back over my journaling from the past many months, I realize I have been in a sustained storm of my own. The storm of darkness which I noticed in my writing was disturbing until I began to piece it all together. "Hindsight," it is said, "is 20/20." (Believe me, the correlation of this year being 2020 is not lost on me.) There is wisdom in the darkness, and because of that, it is important to stay in the darkness in order work and struggle through the hard things, and this time will lead to transformation, light and wholeness.
The way I see it, there are but two choices. When I am faced with darkness, or time in the dark tunnel, (language used in Barb Lownsbury's book USING WHAT'S BROKEN TO BOLDLY SHINE.), 1) I can decide to do nothing and continue to fumble in the dark. 2) I can seek a way out by doing the important work that this tunnel time offers. It takes genuine courage to move toward the light, and for me it is only possible because I consistently call out to the One who joins me in the tunnel. Sometimes it is so dark, the pin pick light at the end of the tunnel is not even visible. Not wanting to give up on these moments for growth, I struggle to reach my heart toward the One "who is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Hebrews 13:8) It is comforting to realize that the Creator is ALWAYS available to me; desires to to guide me through tough and dark times; is willing to join me when life seems difficult to bear.
Upon reflection of my time in the tunnel, I have come to realize there are unsolved things in my heart that must be addressed. Maria Rilke said,
"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart, and try to love the questions [of the
heart]....living into the questions now."
Of course that is easier said than done when the heart is involved. So I turn to the Lord, the One who helps me to not get tripped up when I'm feeling vulnerable. The One who keeps me focused on the life that is possible once I emerge into the light.
"You teach me the path of life. In Your presence is total celebration. Beautiful things are
always in Your right hand." (Psalm 16:11, CEB)
Much like a caterpillar emerges from a cocoon, I know that I will emerge from the darkness, transformed. Yet God calls me to not rush this time. Science tells us that to open a cocoon before it has metamorphosed into a butterfly destroys it. Not that God will destroy me should I emerge before the challenging work is done. It just means I may need to be sent back to the tunnel to do more work down the road, should I abandon the time too quickly.
There is no easy fix when faced with the darkness of the tunnel. I am called to endure it so I don't miss out on essential, personal growth. Doing the hard work is critical, and God loves me so much that God's presence sticks by me in this time of growth. So I continue to work through my grief, seeking out new relationships that foster joy and hope, especially the hope from the Creator.
The Israelites wandered for forty years in the desert after Moses helped them leave the oppression of slavery in Egypt. (Genesis 14). This was the tunnel of darkness thrust upon the people for their disobedience to God. The forty years were a time of learning how to rely on God's strength and not their own. God's guidance was always there for them as they came to this place of trust.
My life is filled with times when I sought to do the hard work on my own, forgetting to call on the Lord for strength, trust, and guidance. Most times, the struggle was so challenging I wanted to give up. Usually in those moments I remembered to call on God and give up my own selfish desire to control everything. In order for the Lord to do a new thing in me, in my heart, I had to relinquish control and let God guide my life.
What is in your tunnel of darkness that needs the guidance of the Lord? Do you struggle with putting your trust in God's wisdom and strength? I invite you to go into the tunnel, call on the Lord, and then work through the things that are slowing your transformation. Trust the process that leads to inner growth by spending the time and making the effort. The Lord loves you and wants you to live a life of wholeness, and is the One who can guide you towards your own transformation.
Loving Lord, thank You for joining me in the storms of life. When darkness threatens to swallow me, Your love shows me the way to the Light. Give me the stamina I need to endure the tunnel of darkness so that I will know true transformation. Amen.
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