Stephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC
Moving in the Dark
"You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm 18:28 (NIV)
Darkness makes me claustrophobic. A little clarification may be necessary. I’m not talking about regular, old run-of-the-mill darkness. What I’m talking about is thick, can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face darkness. I don’t experience this kind of darkness often but when I do, it’s hard to breathe. It’s intensified if I’m experiencing it in an unfamiliar setting. The worst experience I ever had with this was years ago when my husband and I spent a weekend visiting my mom. At the time, she lived in an earth contact home. If you are unfamiliar, these are homes built into the ground with earth on three sides and the roof at ground level. It was a cozy little home with the guest bedroom near the back of the house. This small detail means there were no windows in this room. I don’t remember anything about the visit other than waking up in the middle of the night needing to use the bathroom. My first thought upon waking (as sometimes comes when I sleep in a different bed on vacation) was, “Where am I?” But without visual confirmation due to the extreme darkness, my mind could not make sense of things. I sat up abruptly seeking any evidence of my whereabouts. Nothing. Thankfully, my mind remembered and mocked me, “Hey, silly, you’re at your mom’s.” “Oh yeah, that’s right, duh.” I thought to myself. However, this confirmation brought little comfort. Swinging my legs to the side of the bed, my feet hit the floor and I looked for evidence of the door. Surely my eyes should have adjusted to the dark by now, but there was nothing. Logically I knew it was on the left side of the room, but with no sense of direction, I started to panic and thrust my hands out in front of me. Nothing. Sitting on the edge of the bed, my heart began beating so hard I thought it would wake my husband. No such luck. Now the reason I woke was even more immediate and I found myself bouncing up and down like a child trying to wait until the very last minute to go. I whispered to myself, “Calm down, just breathe, stay focused. You can find the door, you’re too old to wet the bed!” I sat there for what felt like forever before finally getting the courage to move. Yes, I said courage. The darkness had an almost crippling component to it that paralyzed me. Finally, I stood up and once again thrust my hands out. Again, nothing. Slowly, I began shuffling my feet forward. I was afraid if I lifted them I’d lose my ground, so shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, thud… closet door. Oh, thank goodness! Faster now, to the left I moved, my hands guiding me along the closet, to the dresser, to the next wall, and finally to the door. I could hear the Hallelujah Chorus when it opened, not really, but it felt like a major accomplishment. I stood there for a moment trying to catch my breath and eventually made it to the bathroom. Upon returning to the room, I slept with the door open. I now know that whenever I sleep in an unfamiliar room, I need to crack the blinds, open the curtains, or something that will shed light to help me get my bearings if I wake up at night. It’s a necessity. So what does this have to do with God? Well, maybe nothing for you, but for me, this helped me to gain a better understanding of myself when God is leading me down an unfamiliar path. As long as I have a little bit of light, at least enough to see where I’m at even if I don’t know where I’m going, I’m fine. I may not know all the details of God’s plan but a little light makes me feel grounded. However, you take away all sense of direction and sight, I freak out! At my worst, I become completely paralyzed; not wanting to move or do anything because I can’t see what God is up to. It’s suffocating! I think God brought me back to this old story because what ultimately stopped the panic was so simple… moving. I couldn’t see anything, but I had to move if I was going to find my way out. The same is true when we are seeking out God’s plan for our lives. We will never find it if we don’t start moving. Movement is what activates the hand of God on our behalf. If we’re truly seeking his will and are moving in the wrong direction, he’ll stop us or get in the way (he’s pretty good at that one). And if we are moving in the right direction, his favor will go with us and begin showing us next steps. It makes sense if we think about it and yet it’s so hard to do. I don’t always do this well, but today, I am finding that God is faithful to “keep my lamp burning” and to “turn my darkness into light” in the areas of my greatest need when I keep moving. Who needs a full lamp if they’re not going anywhere? It’s something to think about.
For Your Reflection… It is so easy to do nothing when we feel like we are in the dark. What would it look like for you to begin taking steps forward with God in areas where you feel like you don’t see the whole picture?