The first morning of the Great Darkness, I slid out the back door into deafening silence.
The door shuddered down the track and then glided closed again with a groan. I reached up, up – stretching my leg muscles with tip-toed feet in worn sneakers – then down past my ankles to brush the wet wooden planks of the deck with tender fingers. Sore hamstrings loosened as I cascaded down the steps and out toward the road. Feeling the eerie calm of pre-dawn slumber, I picked up pace.
The day seemed to be holding its breath, like it wasn’t ready to crest the horizon quite yet, even though the minutes were ticking by. There was a palpable haze thickening around me. And then somewhere to the northwest, a siren broke the last of early’s hush with her screams.
By the time I reached home again, the flickering red and blue lights of an emergency vehicle were more present than the sunrise. They were further down the road, but in the half-beams of early fog, their flashes turned surrounding mist into a very noisy silence.
And my spirit screamed with them.
It was an hour later when a farmer with gentle eyes knocked at my door. Even though we had never met properly, he called me by my first name and explained in the simple vernacular of a man who knows seed and tassel better than proper etiquette that my husband had been in a car accident less than a mile away. He had been taken by ambulance to the hospital, complaining of pain in his back. The farmer wrung his hat in his hands and looked at me with apology, “I’m sure it’s a lot to take in …” he mumbled, his voice trailing into the sidewalk with his eyes.
I know that I answered him. I know that somehow sounds formed themselves into words and stumbled from my lips. I know that all those years’ experience as a pastor’s wife probably kicked in and I numbly said the right thing at the right time. But my heart was not in it. I was still screaming on the inside.
And the screaming continued through the morning. So did the Darkness.
In fact, in spite of the broad light of day now upon us, I think it grew.
Both hands of the clock were straight up, pointing at 12 o’clock noon, when I swung our white 15-passenger van around the driveway in front of the Emergency Room doors and watched as my husband gingerly smiled and then stepped out to meet us. Oh, so delicate, his steps. He had suffered several broken vertebrae and was wearing a brace that wrapped his torso. And he greeted us with the news that he would be wearing it for the next six to eight weeks for his back to recover properly. He would also be out of work without pay for the same amount of time.
I felt the scream in my soul dissolve at his words. The blood rushed from my head and all beauty in the world seemed to go mute.
A question mark hung heavy in the air between heaven and my little swath of earth.
To say that I was angry at God at that moment would be an understatement.
… And all that was one week ago. I’ve been living the Great Darkness for seven full days.
Since the accident, friends have told me that “God is good.” They’ve quoted more translations of Romans 8:28 than I can count and I know they’re lovingly trying to shore up my heart. But what I sense in what they say is sometimes not the truth that sets free, but an effort (however well-intentioned) at trying to move me from where I am to where they think I should be. What I feel in their ever-ready answers is a valiant attempt not at the making of room for healthy processing, but at control. And I used to go along with it, letting people tell me what I should believe and where I should find hope and accepting that their experience is a template for my own. But I’m a little bit older now. So when I sense the presence of “helpers” who are really “fixers”, I dig my heels in deeper. Because the truth can be used as a key in a lock or it can be used as a weapon; it can be used to comfort and strengthen or it can be used to impatiently prod along toward where someone else thinks my story ought to be going.
Perhaps where I need to be is exactly the place where I am.
If I could feel safe enough with those friends to really bare all, I would tell them that a more terrifying fear than the possibility that God might not turn this all into good is the fear that God will not wait for me in these angry days. That He will wash His hands of me and count me among the defectors because I can’t pull it together and praise Him with my shattered heart. I am more anxious over letting God see the honest state of my soul than I am about where the money will come from or if my husband will need surgery. And what I need to hear from my friends in these days that stretch out before me as one long string of overwhelming need is thatGod doesn’t want me to be anything before Him but honest. He doesn’t want the numb answers I mutter at the farmer – even if they are the “right” ones. He doesn’t want me to cram my emotions into my theology, stuffing until they fit. He knows that I don’t need courage to face the lack of provision – I need courage to go through uncomfortable emotions, instead of some kind of misguided “short-cut” around them. I need courage for the process.
It’s dim and shadowy here, in this messy middle place. I still find myself both in Great Darkness and in deafening silence. But perhaps there are times when what grows best in the dark is what finally opens our eyes to the light.
Kelli Woodford hopes never to recover from the Mighty Mercy she has been shown. Although her life is now filled with more diapers than she’d like to count, she carves time out to write about finding God in the simple and the frustrating at Chronicles of Grace (http://jasonandkelliwoodford.blogspot.com/).