Darkness and Light
I love summer. It’s my absolute favorite time of year. My husband and I recently sold our home, bought a motorhome and hit the road to travel the U.S. This summer was our first real “On-the-Road-Again Adventure,” and I looked forward to the season with more than my usual anticipation.
I haven’t been disappointed. We’ve traveled through six states and I’m loving it but it’s been very busy. When things finally slowed a bit, I remembered the first time we moved away from family and friends.
My husband took a new job which required leaving our home in California for training in New Jersey. We left our family in October and headed to our busy East Coast apartment building. It was a long winter for this So Cal gal and I was very homesick. As soon as the days turned warm, I started taking long walks, more than ready for summer. I could stand on the hill and look across the Hudson River to the New York skyline. I loved the sun and the Garden State’s flowers, especially its giant blue hydrangeas.
Nearby was a synagogue and my daily walk ended just about the time the boys finished their religion classes. As a mother of three grown sons, I loved to watch the little guys come tumbling out. They’d run to the sidewalk, pushing and shoving, boisterous as boys are. But they had shiny baby–like curls on the sides of their heads and backpacks bigger than their bodies. They never failed to make me smile.
So when I heard that one little boy, coming home from religion class, was kidnapped and murdered, it broke my heart. I found myself angry, bitter and full of hatred for the man responsible for such tragedy. He had sucked all the sunshine from my summer. Not just this summer but all my summers going way back to my childhood.
Like a picture book flipping through scenes, I remembered summers past. A four-year-old girl, not much younger than I, climbed in an abandoned freezer. The lid closed and she suffocated. A man trapped nine nurses in their dormitory. In another sizzling summer, a man held San Francisco captive with murder, rhymes and astrological signs. I questioned why these horrors crept into our lives on the coattails of the most beautiful season of the year.
In my own area of Los Angeles, the Night Stalker prowled the streets, broke into secure homes and did terrible things to his victims’ bodies. I was a young wife with two babies and I felt particularly vulnerable. I lay awake night after night, listening to every creak of the house, wondering how this man got in—and sweltering in the heat because I was afraid to crack the window even a little.
That was also the summer I found God. I don’t know if so many sleepless nights finally broke my hard head and pride or if in fear and desperation I ran into His arms. I’m not sure, but I do know my Christian friends exuded calm. They were frightened and sleepless like the rest of us, but there was a peace about them I could sense but not explain. I wanted that peace for myself so I went in search of my God.
I found Him, patiently waiting.
That was many years ago and I like to think that, sometimes, I’m that island of calm for someone else. So it made it particularly difficult that summer when an evil man brought such a heavy shadow into my days.
Within one week, I received news that three of my acquaintances were dying of cancer and we were called to pray. Cancer was another shadow, threatening to darken my beautiful summer. In my mind’s eye, I saw it like a black, sticky glob, oozing across a white map, eating up states and lives, leaving behind nothing but days of black misery.
Then I heard that our prayers had been answered. One tumor had shrunk. One tiny pinprick of sunshine broke through into my dark closet.
I knew there must be other shafts of light so I went searching again. I found one in a picture my son sent to my cell phone. His pregnant wife was cleaning house. Their baby grew fussy so my daughter-in-law sat down in the middle of the mess to rock her and they both dozed off. My son walked in and snapped the picture. His love for them glowed from that captured moment.
My daughter called and I heard laughter in her voice as she told me of her family’s vacation adventures.
Even in my busy apartment building, I was friendless, but suddenly I found one poolside. We stood in the water chatting until we grew cold. We talked about our homes, our children and oh, by the way, she was a Christian. I laughed out loud and said, “We always manage to find each other, don’t we?”
Silently, I thanked the Lord.
It was a sweet reminder, a gentle nudge in the right direction. So I’m passing it on to you. Enjoy your summer. Walk down the beach hand in hand with your love. Sip tea with a friend under an umbrella. Listen for the shouts and laughter of children in a pool. Count your many blessings. Thank Him for them and keep them close to your heart. Praise Him continuously because he is our hope, our joy and our comfort.
Should that black ooze come to surround you with darkness, reach out. Search for the switch plate and flip on the light.
He will will be there…patiently waiting.