Editors Note: This post is Part 2 of An Ember Yet Burns – and the book of Jeremiah, which you can read by clicking on the link.
Even though I’m a carnivore…
Even though they don’t serve meat…
Recently I’ve been in a heck of a hell hole…major darkness bordering on despondency. Almost hopelessness. It’s like hope on life support powered by two AAA batteries nearing expiration. When I wrote the last blog post, if I could endure long enough to make it to the January retreat in southern California, I knew had a chance of pulling out of this slump.
While driving through the high desert en route to the retreat center, I could feel the heaviness of things kind of sloughing off with each mile. It felt like I was dropping weighted layers of darkness one by one along the way…incremental moments of relief.
I arrived to the retreat center utterly spent mentally and emotionally. But this is a safe place, a resting place. It reminds me in some ways to what Rivendell was to the people of Middle-earth, “a refuge for the weary and the oppressed, and a treasury of good counsel and wise lore” (Tolkien 357).
We began with the question, what is the state of my soul today?
That’s an easy one – not good.
The opening text and ensuing conversation from Matthew 4:11-25 began the process of shining a light into the darkness and paving a way to freedom.
But first, my reality, from verse 16:
“…people who sat in darkness…”
That is me. In my mind I pictured myself in a deep, dark valley. Rocky, steep sides you could not climb, very dark. I couldn’t see a way out.
Someone in the group used the word “stuck” describing a feeling from the passage. I could relate to that – I felt stuck, sitting in the darkness. I knew there was a way out but I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t find my way of being un-stuck.
The verse continues:
“…and for those who sat in the…shadow of death light has dawned.”
Light has dawned.
Hope! An escape! It was like being in that deep valley, surrounded by the inky darkness, and then dawn. Light that penetrates the dark. Now I could see the way out. Move toward the light, one step at a time.
But first, the admonition from verse 17:
For the first time in a while, I actually felt it. You know when you are so cold you “clam up”, your muscles tighten so much that you don’t even shake? Imagine being so locked up, cold, not moving, and then the sun hits you. You feel the warmth of the sun hitting your body. It feels so good. You begin to relax. That is how I felt.
My soul was numb, locked up, unfeeling. And then the sun came out. The light fell on my body in a gentle way, enveloping me in a warm embrace. The numbness was starting to thaw. I was soaking up the sunshine. I was coming back to life.
And the invitation, from verse 19:
Imagine the Son, coming around the corner, standing in the entrance of the dark valley, His light penetrating the darkness. He extends His hand. Come, follow Me. Grace extended yet again.
In my heart I am grateful. I wasn’t sure exactly what would happen at this retreat. Would I think about the year ahead and create new goals? Would I come up with some great plans for the future? Or would I go home much the same, unchanged? I didn’t know.
While I did not come away with grandiose plans for the future, I did decide to begin some new patterns.
Rather, I decided to renew some familiar patterns. And start some new ones.
But I will keep it simple, establish good habits, and demonstrate progress. Most importantly, the darkness has lifted. The little ember that was barely alive is burning brighter. The despair is gone and hope is renewed.
I am reminded of Jeremiah 6:16, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.“
I have found the path. I am back on track. Only by His grace. Amen.
Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-25730-1