The more my life fell apart the more I reflected and struggled and came up with zilch. It was a terrible cycle of desolation and defeat, until…I saw it: the light in the dark place.
We’ve all been there: Things look bleak. All hope is lost. Pain and despair are all around. It’s a dark place.
But for those of you who’ve been there and have survived, you can cosign this for me as I speak to those who haven’t encountered this yet, or might be going through it right now: It gets better.
And if you’ve been through it a few times, if you’ve walked out of some tought spots, some places that you thought would kill you, then you can attest to this when I say: It even gets downright GOOD.
I know because I’ve been there. In fact, I’m back there right now. I’ve been through some things in my life, experienced and borne witness to some henious stuff: rape, molestation, murder, suicide, domestic violence and mental abuse. But a few years ago, I went to a place that was darker than anywhere I’d ever been.
Many (or most) of you are familiar with this story, so I’ll spare you the details and give the abridged version. I had just relocated back to my hometown of New York City to care for my mom, who has MS. Shortly after the move, I learned I was pregnant. So now, here I was pregnant, unemployed and practically homeless (sleeping on people’s sofas, housesitting for a place to stay and occasionally resting on a blow-up bed at a relative’s house), I just knew it was all going to be okay. If nothing else, my husband and I would get through it together. Except, he had the nasty habit of being a quitter and a cheater and a louse – not all the time, just when in a bind. And this time, he went out of his way to publicly humiliate me. First he threw me under the bus, then he drove it back and forth.
I thought my life was over. I was unemployed, homeless, and unprepared. For all the education I’d acquired, I couldn’t seem to land a job. Everything about my circumstances at that time suggested I’d never climb out of that rut. I was having a baby and I had no money. And since babies cost money it meant, I would have even less. I’d be indebted to people (more than I already was). Worse, if I didn’t figure out something and fast it wouldn’t just be my life that I’d ruin…it’d be my unborn son’s as well.
I struggled and toiled and came up with nothing. The more my life fell apart the more I reflected and struggled and came up with zilch. It was a terrible cycle of desolation and defeat, until…
I saw the light in the dark place. My cousin doesn’t know it, but she sowed a seed back then that’s growing now. It hasn’t fully bloomed yet, but it’s budding.
I was sitting on her sofa one day, curled up in a knot and sick as spit (did I mention I had morning sickness for the first eight months?!). She came in and saw me and we talked. I’d mentioned my issues to her before, but this time she asked me an unusual question: “What do you really want to do? In an ideal situation, what would happen?”
I admitted that I’d write my way out of it. I’d sell my story, my advice, my encouragement (regardless how sparse it was at the time) and get myself on track.
My cousin – the Saint – told me, “write and the money will come. Don’t worry about anything else. Just write. I really believe the money and everything else will follow.”
It took me another year, some hard lessons and a lot of denial but I followed her advice and my life spun into control in no time.
Here’s why: the dark place is where we learn the hardest lessons of our lives. We learn what’s important and what’s not. We learn who’s important. We learn what to hold onto and what to let go of. We discover hidden strength and talents we didn’t know existed. Or we recover lost parts of ourselves that make us the best we can be.
In the dark places we feel stifled, suffocated, trapped. We literally feel buried alive sometimes like a seed underground, though we may be standing in an open room.
The dark place is where God strips you to your core, gets you alone with yourself – or should I say your Self – and makes you evaluate your life (past, present and future).
Your dark place is when the storms of life seem to hit at the same time. But know this: when you bury a seed, sunlight does little for it at the onset. It’s primary nourishment comes from its ingestion of the resources around it. The sunlight’s affects on the soil, not the seed itself, offers the seed something it couldn’t otherwise get – strength. The effects of the water on the soil translates into sustenance.
The same is true for you. When you’re in your dark place, all those storms affect you and they show you just how strong you are. All those beacons of encouragement give you the nourishment to keep going.
And then something happens, you start to sprout roots, you become grounded and steadfast. Then your stem begins to form, your core is enhanced. Next, you break ground and you begin to bud fruit.
Suddenly, the person that needed to lean on everyone else is the one people are coming to for help. How did you get out? How can I do it? Suddenly, what seemed impossible only months before is a reality today.
The dark place is essential for those who want to walk in the light. It’s a testing ground, a purification site. The dark place is where strength lies, growth occurs and transformation begins.
I wish I could say that once you leave the dark place, that’s it; it’s all over and you’re done forever and ever. Amen.
But I’d be a liar. The truth is, because those dark places are critical to our growth and development and play a vital part in us becoming the men and women God wants us to be, there will always be dark places in our lives.
This doesn’t mean our lives are one mass of darkness. It means that there are seasons and cycles that we experience in order to shape and expand us, so we can move to higher levels.
I know this to be true because I’m living that right now. The one thing I didn’t want to do was return to school. I felt school was a waste of my time. For all the education I’d acquired I couldn’t land a job – too educated for some things, not enough education for others, and for those jobs where I was just right, I didn’t know who I needed to know. So what would going back to school do for me besides put me further into debt (remember, without a job I can’t pay out of pocket, so I’d have to heap on student loans).
Well, when I finally decided to surrender myself to God, I applied to school for creative writing. I was admitted and shortly after, I relocated. I’m in my own home and debt-free (aside from those student loans). My mother lives with me and my son now, and our relationship has never been better. We’ve overcome some heinous obstacles and seen some truly miraculous events come to pass in the last year.
But several months ago, my mother became symptomatic. The MS medication shed been taking for the last 2 years wasn’t powerful enough and a few weeks ago she experienced a full-blown relapse, which sent her to the hospital.
How did we find out? She fell down while holding her grandson.
For all the wonderful things I’ve acquired in these last two years, nothing is more precious than the time I’ve had with my mother. And to see her struggling every day to retain some semblance of self is a hard battle. Being away from family, and trying to juggle her care alongside everyday life (like school, work and motherhood) has been rough, especially when it could potentially be for naught.
But this is what I know: In the dark place, the circumstance is not nearly as important as your stance. What you’re going through is minimal when compared to what you’re meant to learn from it. That you go through it is shadowed by how you go through it.
Even as I go through this, there is an air of joy and peace. Even with all the sleepless nights and jam-packed days, something feels good and right about where we are. Even with all the scares, flares, falls and fumbles I know this too shall pass – and when it does, I’m not just expecting it to be better. I’m expecting it to be good.
So, today as you look around and assess your life, if you find that you’re in the dark place, know this:
You are not alone. You will get through this. You will be stronger, wiser, and better. You will be great and it will be good. Just go with God.
As always, good luck and God bless. Until next time.