Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Brighter the Light, the Deeper the Shadows

This morning Pastor Jim talked about how God’s light chases away the darkness, and as usual, his message gave me food for thought. In a flash of light, the phrase came to my mind—the brighter the light, the deeper the shadows.

Our lives are made up of bright light and dark shadows. Some mornings we awaken with joy in our hearts, confident the day will shine bright upon us. Other days begin with a sense of something out of kilter, and as we orient ourselves to meet the day, a shadow may envelop us in gloom.

People surrounded by the brightest lights often plummet to the deepest shadows. Do we expect more from those who live in the limelight? Stars who flame the brightest fall from the sky and become lost in the shadows. Often we are envious of famous people and believe they lead charmed lives. Often it isn’t until their deaths that we learn about their dark sides, the demons of drugs, insecurity, or physical abuse they hid behind their bright smiles. Could we have seen the pain in their eyes if only we had looked closer? Could we tell that Marilyn stood in the shadow of Norma Jean? Could we have known that satisfying the public’s insatiable curiosity about Princess Diana cast a shadow over her that contributed to her death?

When a loved one has Alzheimer’s, we may spend many days living in the shadow of the life we used to have. I recently talked to a woman whose husband has a type of dementia that drastically changed his personality. For more than sixty years, their days were filled with travel, love, and laughter. Now, he is making her life miserable. He accuses her of cheating on him, calls her obscene names, says he hates her (and always has), that he wants a divorce, and on and on. Her heart is broken. She doesn’t want to put him in a nursing home, and she worries about him constantly even during the time we spent drinking coffee at a local restaurant.

Now, his doctor is trying to control his rage with medication, but so far nothing has worked. “I still love him,” she said with tears in her eyes, “but I don’t like him anymore.” Her life has moved into deepest shadows. The bright light that shone upon them seems like a distant memory, a lifetime ago, extinguished and vanished from her world.

If we can only remember that during the darkest times of our lives, the brightest light shines on us. The light is always there. It just happens to be shining at our backs while all we see is the shadow in front of us. As we move forward, the shadow moves with us, and we think it will never go away. During the most troubled times, we may be afraid that the shadow is a black hole and one more step will cause us to tumble into the abyss. From time to time, we must turn around and look over our shoulder to see the bright light, still there, steadfast.

Without light, there are no shadows. Do you remember making shadow puppets when you were younger? You place your hand in front of a bright light and form your hand into a shape. Your hand displaces the light, making a fun shadow on the wall. If you make a solid fist, the light won’t shine through your hand—you must actively make it happen.

The only way a shadow remains solid is if we do nothing to allow light to shine through. The slivers of brilliant light blazing through the shadows reaffirms our faith that the deeper the shadows, the brighter the light.

Copyright © November 2010 L. S. Fisher
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