Light

dsc_7617_1024

As 2016 comes to a close, I have found myself doing what many do this time of year. Christmas is over, and a new year approaches, along with new possibilities, new chances to better ourselves, and a renewed hope for the coming year.

For many, myself included, 2016 has been a tough year.   For me, perhaps the hardest part of this year has been realizing more than ever that there remains a lot of darkness in our world. From the massacre in a Christmas market in Germany to the refugee crisis in Aleppo, to our own presidential election, this year has seen a lot of hate, vitriol, exclusion and oppression.   Focusing on these events, and the people at the center of them, is a recipe for cynicism and fear.

Imagine you’re in a dark room, not knowing where to turn to find your way. Suddenly, you see a small light. What do you do? You head toward that light.

I am determined to not become consumed with the darkness. Darkness manifests itself in so many sinister ways, that we often do not realize it has become such an integral part of our being.   We yell at the person driving 50 mph on the freeway, only to pass by and see someone’s grandmother on her way to church. We gossip about the coworker who is unproductive and unreliable, only to find out that she struggles with addiction. We fail to acknowledge the young man who proudly holds open a door for us because we are too busy with our own life to actually see and appreciate the people around us.

Knowing that the smallest of flames can break through utter darkness, I intend to not only move toward the light in this world, but to be a light for those searching in the darkness.   I intend to treat people with kindness, love, appreciation and forgiveness. My hope is that if one person finds light in my presence, then they will, themselves, become a light for another. As the light grows, there can be no more darkness.

The Kindness of Strangers

The other day, I was on my way to work.  The morning had been the same as virtually every other weekday morning–got up early, worked out, ate breakfast, prayed and then got ready and headed off to work (I know, I do a LOT before 9:00 a.m.!).  As I was driving, I experienced a fleeting, yet overwhelming feeling that something special was going to happen this day.  No matter how hard I prayed, I just couldn’t seem to get this feeling back, because it felt so good.  I thanked God for His blessing and continued on my way.

As I was stopped at the light near my office, I absent-mindedly was looking around at my surroundings.  At this particular stop light, there are bus stops on either side of the street, and I often watch the people waiting for their transportation to wherever they are going.  I sometimes watch these people and say prayers for them; sometimes I am just watching them with no particular thought in my head.  This day was different, however.  I began watching an Asian woman, likely in her mid-50’s or so, walking toward the bus stop on the other side of the street.  She was blind and was using a cane to navigate her way down the sidewalk.  She moved slowly, and somewhat tentatively as she came upon a large electrical box adjacent to the sidewalk.  As she approached it, it appeared as though she would walk right into it, but her cane alerted her to its’ existence and she started slowly making her way to a clear path.

Suddenly, I observed a young Hispanic gentleman, maybe around 30 years old, walk up to her and say something to her.  She smiled broadly, grabbed his arm and he led her, slowly and safely, to the bus stop 50 feet away.  That fleeting feeling that I experienced earlier came back in a rush, and tears instantly came to my eyes. I had just witnessed a very simple, yet profound, act of kindness.  This young man, who had been waiting at the bus stop down the way, didn’t have to walk the 50 feet to help this woman.  This woman, who no doubt does not allow her blindness to prevent her from getting out and about, didn’t ask for his help, but willingly and with a big smile on her face gladly received it.  This incredible, blessed act of kindness will forever link these two strangers, as well as myself, who was fortunate and blessed enough to have witnessed it.

The light turned green and after blessing these two and thanking God for allowing me to witness this, I had to continue on to work, but I knew that I had experienced God in a very close and personal way that morning.  I went into my office with such a feeling of lightness, peace and joy that cannot be put into words.  Whenever the pressures of the workday reared their head (and at my job, that happens often), I thought back to that display of kindness and was brought back to that place of incredible peace and joy.  To this day, when I replay the image of that encounter in my mind, my eyes still well up with gratitude.  Sometimes, it’s the kindness of strangers toward each other that is the greatest gift.   I was simply a fortunate by-stander in this display, but was profoundly and forever impacted by it.  For that, God, I express my deepest gratitude.

 

Strength in Weakness

The past few weeks have been hard.  Without going into the gory details, I have been inundated with immense burdens at work due to others’ personal situations over which they have no control.  Doing my own work is hard enough, but having to do the work of three people, well, I think you get the picture.  I can’t say no, because it’s not right to turn one’s back on helping out when another is in distress.  What’s more, this all seems to be happening during a time of intense reflection and repurposing on my part.  It’s almost as if someone is saying, “No time to spend on yourself right now.  You need to take on everyone else’s problems and deal with them first.”

As a result of this, I have become beaten down, defeated, deflated.  On a physical level, I have been ill more this year than I have in the past three years combined!  On an emotional level, I have had moments of bitterness, anger and hostility that simply are not who I am.

Many days, the sound of my alarm in the morning would bring overwhelming feelings of dread of another day ahead.  Dreaming of a day to myself, I would wonder, “Who’s problems are I going to have to take on today?”  It’s exhausting.

In all of this, however, one thing that has not changed is spending time with God.  Each morning I have continued my practice of reading scripture and devotionals, mediating and praying.  Admittedly, of late, most mornings I haven’t felt like engaging in my ritual because, frankly, I was irritated with God.   I work hard, I’m honest, I do the right things in life. Why am I always the one getting dumped on, the one struggling, the one being taken for granted?  But I kept at it.  Reading the Word even though I didn’t feel like reading the Word.  Praying when it seemed as though I had no prayers in me.

And then it happened.  One morning I was drawn to 2 Cor. 12:10:  “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, them am I strong.”  Something about that Scripture spoke to me.  I realized that even though I was irritated with God, I never once felt like He wasn’t there with me, going through each any every trial with me, just like He promises.  When my alarm clock sounded every morning and I did not want to get out of bed, it wasn’t me who willed my feet to the floor, it was Him.  I didn’t have to be strong emotionally and physically to get through these days, because His strength became perfect in my weakness. My eyes were opened to this Truth and what it really means to have strength in weakness.  He loves me.  He is with me.  He got me through these days, and will continue walking with me on good days and bad.  These burdens have been turned into blessings, because I know, deep inside my “knower” that what He has taught me during this time is far better than what I could have learned in any time of ease and leisure.

I like being alone..

Horacio Jones wrote:  “I like being alone.  I have control over my own shit.  Therefore, in order to win me over, your presence has to feel better than my solitude.  You’re not competing with another person, you are competing with my comfort zones.”

I like being alone.  Not entirely, however, for the reasons stated in the above quote.  In solitude, I can spend time with God, which, I have come to realize, is THE most important, joyful, peaceful and loving time I can ever spend on this earth.  In this regard, Horacio Jones got it right:  “your presence has to feel better than my solitude.”  If spending a night out with friends, or constantly having another person in my ‘space’ feels better to me than spending time with God, then my priorities are out of whack.

These past two weeks for me have been a tale of two extremes.  Last week, I spent the week busy and hurried, in preparation for hosting a Christmas dinner for my entire family.   Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the purpose in the preparations.  I also immensely enjoyed spending time with my family.  But once it was over, I was glad to have my peace and quiet-my solitude-back.

This week of the impending New Year has swung to the opposite extreme.  My son has been away snowboarding with his father, and I have had the house, and my time, completely and utterly alone.  No commitments, no preparations to make, no expectations on my time.  And this week has been insanely blissful.  Much time has been spent in prayer and reflection on the exit of yet another year and the beginning of a new one.  This week has brought unparalleled relaxation and renewal–just what the doctor, or I believe in my case, God–ordered.  I have enjoyed the solitude of these days.  I have enjoyed running the occasional errand, with no stress attached, and with my heart open to whatever the day may bring.  I have taken drives to nowhere and discovered beautiful places in the Bay Area that I have never seen.  This is the way that life should be lived.  I think I may have just come up with my resolution for 2016!  How wonderful!