by Carrie Ellis
I am not a gardener. In fact, I have an uncanny talent for killing plants, even succulents. I recently learned that the basic components of soil are minerals, organic matter, water and air. The fact that air actually comprises 25% of the composition of soil is intriguing. Nothingness. Invisible expanse. The power of growth is rooted in room to breathe. Stop and think about that for just a moment. Growth cannot actually happen without space. But what actually takes place in the dark nothingness? Perhaps the dark offers surprising new hope for our own lives and those of our clients.
What’s your “dark” story?
As a child, I was terrified of the dark. Each night I’d ready my bed, covers pulled back, lined up with twenty-odd something various dolls and stuffed animals, turn out the light and launch myself across the room, leaping into bed for fear of what might grab me from the unknown expanse underneath the bed. But what was my fear based on? I’d never been grabbed from underneath the bed. My parents were careful about the influence of scary movies and images. But lying there listening to the sounds of evening stillness, my mind would come up with stories to fill the gap. Stories of terror that awaited me there, in the dark. Isn’t this where we have learned that fear most often stems? From our own imaginations? From the fantasies allowed to run free and rampant in an immature, undeveloped, and untrained mind? What thoughts and images, which the Bible would call strongholds, are you allowing to take root in your mind? What is the “story” you tell yourself about the dark?
Does your mind betray you?
Perhaps we are fighting a losing battle. A part of our brain is actually programmed to fill in the blanks, the unknown. In “Outsmarting Yourself”, Dr. Karl Lehman actually calls this the Verbal Logical Explainer (VLE). (p.21). Much of our present experiences are actually lived conjoined in the shadow of earlier life events and memories that trigger fear or other emotions at our subconscious attachment level. Basically our VLE will quickly and smoothly come up with explanations for WHY and HOW our current circumstances are causing us to re-experience any triggered thoughts and emotions. At our very core, we filter all of life through the lens of our attachments. As believers, while we long to experience and live out of a secure attachment and relationship with Christ, the reality is that many of us have grown to rely on a more rational, cognitive level of understanding of truth that leaves us feeling abandoned and alone in our painful circumstances. Since our deepest wounds occur at the attachment center of our brain, we must learn to experience the truth that Jesus is always with us in order to sustain secure attachment with Him.
Can you find comfort in the dark?
Now as a busy mom, wife and leader, I am still afraid of the dark. I find myself juggling roles, demands, and expectations fueled by a personality style that loves to pioneer new efforts and jump headlong into opportunity and challenge. I wrestle to find the time to accomplish all I want to do. I search for significance and impact through the rush that filling the gaps awards me. I wonder how much is enough. These last few years I’ve sensed God leading me into the darkness; the still, earthy, gritty place of just being. The place of waiting, powerless to impact outcome through my wisdom or efforts. How does one let go of years of behavioral patterns that feel invigorated and stimulated by challenge to be replaced by the dank, musty smell of beginnings? The tiny Spring seed must know this smell. And yet, perhaps it’s seedling heart cries out in anticipation of bursting forth into glorious colorful display. There is no fear there, just silent submission at the hands of the gardener, stains of dirt under his nails.
I am reminded of the darkness 2,000 years ago when lost dreamers and adventurers watched in horror as their beloved friend, anticipated Messiah, was crucified, died and laid in a tomb: A deep expanse of nothingness guarded by a heavy boulder. Stillness. For three days this place of being is where God unveiled His ultimate purpose and plan. Waiting. A heart that truly knows, believing and trusting, realizes that darkness is not the end. It’s not a place of fear fueled by immature fables of what terror may be awaiting us alone, abandoned in the dark. Rather, a triumphant birth of the bright and glorious; the Divine germination.
Sharing your dark
Over the last nine months, so many of us and our clients have found ourselves in the dark. For many it breeds a level of anxiety that is paramount, an anxious, desperate need for understanding and escape. It has been said that a guide can lead only as far as they’ve journeyed themself. We must cling to the earthy invitation of being. How have you allowed your mind to fill in the gaps of your dark space? What is the narrative you’ve written in the dark? Are you allowing room to breathe in the rhythm of your life? Attend to your soil that your roots may be established firmly in truth.
Ephesians 3:17b-18 says, “I pray that you, being rooted, and established in love, may have the power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” This is the narrative we yearn to fill the space in the dark soil of our lives.
Father, may the love of Christ remind us and comfort us at our deepest levels. Remind us that you are always with us. May we experience and grow in secure attachment to you. Reframe our fear narratives because in the light there is no genuine darkness. God help us in the rhythm of life to keep our soul from getting too compacted. May our roots dig deeply for you that we may be firmly rooted in the light of truth amidst the darkness of our lives. May we allow you to redefine darkness for us and may we release your powerful reframe to the clients we serve. Amen!