The Lasting Effect of A Montana Sunset

Dry brown scrubby grass poked at me as I sat on a gentle, dusty slope watching orange, purple, and turquoise light bounce off the flame red pony standing sleepily next to me while her long, flaxen mane and my light brown, tangled hair caught the last few rays of this long summer day.

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I pulled my knees to my chest and looked down to the big farmhouse, a bright green pasture, while barking dogs and a building crescendo of thundering frog-song from tiny throats gave voice to a summer well-spent.

There were many days like this in my childhood.

Days enough to fill my heart and warm my soul while I sit and look at skeleton trees stark and silent against the faint glint of a winter’s sun through heavy clouds.  A recent snowstorm left piles of snow.  The once pristine, fluffy, and soft drape on the landscape no longer a blanket of beauty but now covering the endless brown in red cinder and heavy crusts of melted, then frozen again, slush. A miserable gray day flanked by rain and wind is nevertheless made brighter by the memory of a day, long ago, sandwiched between a red pony and a Montana sunset.

Isn’t that just the way God works? 

Surrounded by beauty for only a moment, yet, we can hold tightly to that thought for years.

It seems there have been more February days over the past few years than I care to think about too deeply.  Definitely more of the gray than of glorious, horizon spanning, sunsets.

But in the middle of the ashes I can remember beauty.  In the midst of spirit-withering darkness, a splash of gold in a darkening sky.

It is easy, friend, to forget the good when we are so heavily inundated with a society bent on the cruelest of criticisms.  The uncertainty of our futures, a struggling economy, life changes…

Take a minute, stop and breathe,  then close your eyes and remember a summer day, long ago, when there were no pressing issues, nowhere that we have to be, no one to please just a broad brush painting the horizon and a gentle breeze across your face while a symphony of life in bird song and frog-trumpets, loud dogs and laughing children reverberates through your heart.

sunset glogBecause He doesn’t change, I can look forward to more beauty ahead than any darkness this life can throw at me.

 

 

A Beautiful Truth About An Ugly Thing

Think of the ugliest, darkest, most chilling thing you can imagine.  Hold it firmly in the center of your vision and don’t let go.   Wrap your mental fingers around it until they freeze in place and no amount of prying can get you loose again.

Now visualize hanging over an exquisitely beautiful garden.  But you can’t let go of this thing you hold so you can be IN the garden.  You are an observer.  An outsider.

The Thing is a ledge and beyond it lie despair and hopelessness resonating within a void where no good thing can live.

Everyone around you thrives in the garden.  They smell flowers, walk between manicured hedges, taste sweet berries ripening on curling vines while your muscles scream for relief and, concentrating on lifting a finger at a time, you strain your soul to release this thing so you too can land among flower beds and enjoy the paths entwining lives.  As one finger loosens, the possibility of freedom and a new beginning peeks around the corner of a broken, battered soul.

“Will it hurt when I land?”

“How damaged will I be by the blight  of which I have been a part for so long?”

“Surely those who walk in all this loveliness wouldn’t want me to shadow their experience with this ugliness.”

“Who would I be without the darkness?”

“How can I live in constant light?”

“They will see me as I am and know I am unworthy.”

One after another, a spinning cacophony of thoughts cast a web of fear keeping us holding tightly to that hated, but familiar, ledge.

Not quite in the darkness, never fully in the light.

Loved ones call you to come down off the ledge, well intentioned voices give well-intentioned advice, and you smile, nodding, and promise to try…

And yet… You can’t move.

You are stuck in this place that doesn’t make sense to you much less anyone else.  But it has become as much a part of your identity as the color of your eyes, the size of your shoes, the dreams and passion that beckon from a place beyond either darkness or beauty.

This is depression.  Anxiety.  Recovery. 

If you haven’t lived it, you might think me melodramatic.

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If you have? You understand when I say it has been the truth of my life for almost as long as I can remember.

I’ve become old, familiar friends with a sluggish, sloth-like emotional stagnation keeping me firmly fixated on those things that protect the fragility of my reality even while brilliance, life, joy, and beauty explode in a breathtaking fireworks display of marriage, family, church fellowship, and spiritual personal discovery.

Is this an oxymoron?  Can a personality co-exist in two realities and not be vacant in one or vapid in the other?

I don’t know how it all works. I just know it is a phenomenon I am not alone in experiencing.    There are times when the darkness is stronger than the ambrosia scented garden.  In flashes of brilliance, the light overwhelms encroaching fingers of despair and a dusky silhouette approximating freedom can emerge for a season, a day, a moment.

Until I retreat from the Unsafe, the Frightening, the Abuser… I find a safe, dark corner and hold my own trembling hands in fear.   A busy mind devoted to every conceivable escape route hungers for  solitude and safety.

God is faithful to be where I am.  Often, it seems, He sits comfortably on the ledge and soothes me while I struggle to trust, to fall, to believe. He doesn’t seem to mind when my obsessions become so much mental litter cluttering the landscape.

Not willing to leave me alone in the dark, He gives so much more than a flickering candle.  He illuminates the softly tender parts of me. Those which have lain long dormant in whispered anticipation of healing and wholeness.

My pinkie lifts.  Sometimes a whole hand is free.  I look into the garden more often now than the darkness.

Still unsure of who I am becoming but thankful I have a chance to try, I close my eyes and breath deeply.

 “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
― Plato