the shadow side

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there is a conflict in my soul as of late that i have not been able to put words to.  my words here have slowed as i wait and navigate through whatever it is i’m having trouble saying, or am afraid to say.  i write, i publish, and then i delete.

this morning i found the words, but they didn’t come from inside of me.  they came from another kindred soul who took the time to stop and ponder, to search the heart, to write this down.  here is what she said:

“By the time we show up at conferences, feet padding the plush carpet of yet another hotel, we strive to look grown up in our Sunday clothes and polite (if not well-rested) faces. We do, of course, try to have good things to say. We strive to articulate all we believe and present a gracious face to the world. But a whirlwind of hard work and sore shoulders, heartache and heart-searching lies behind us. Imperfect attitudes, impatient words, and discouragement are the shadow side of the inspiration that propels us forward. We struggle, we grapple, we cry. We also laugh and cook and sing. We wash a thousand dishes and cook a thousand good meals and light the candles every evening and play our classical music. Behind every conference we throw or speech we give are countless quiet days of hard work and hard choices. I’m not saying that we live differently than the ideals we hold forth. I’m saying that we fight like wild men to attain them and we have been fighting for as long as I can remember.”  Read more here:  ~Good and Hard, Lifegiving Home Series~

i don’t know how to write the balance.  i also know it needs to be written, because the shadow makes the light shine true.  the shadow is where our humanity bonds.  without the shadow, words become merely a manmade fluorescent imposter. without love, i create nothing but an idolatrous shrine for myself.

there is fine line between too much good and too much hard.  i live daily in the temptation and fall into sin.  i live daily in the redemption and joy of God’s gifts. i live daily in the tension of a paradox that i’d rather not admit because i cannot fully understand.

The truth I find is that every good thing I know requires hard work. It requires, not just a dose of effort to get it started, but the grit to hold fast and keep on when the inspiration fails. Day in and day out, a life that is in any way good requires steady labor, something I don’t always factor in when I am dreaming about the lovely things I’ll make and the heroic deeds I’ll accomplish. The good life – here in a fallen world where what was meant to be good was broken – is a hard life. We fight fallenness in every atom of existence. But every bit of the goodness we we make proclaims the someday new heaven and earth. And somehow, brings the kingdom come, even amidst the shadows.”

“They who fight much, who endure each other’s quirks, who ride out the tempests of difficult circumstances and personalities, who laugh and weep and watch each other’s creation know a comradeship that can only come from the brotherhood of battle. The victory we have, the love that knits us close was only to be forged in struggle...

The truth is that we have wrestled with God over and over again, every one of us, just like Jacob in the wilderness grappling with sin and pain and the strange presence of the Almighty. In striving to create new things, to live our ideals, to keep communion, we wrestled with God in our hearts and we wrestled with God in each other. Every inch of ground we gained in love came with years of hard battle. But we fought forward, knowing that to fight was to hope and even to love, because it was a kind of journey. We were fighting our way back to each other and not away. We were grappling toward beauty and we wrestled until we were blessed. We strove until we overcame.

That, I suppose, it at heart of what I am striving to understand, to tell myself here and as I do, tell you too. If love is to be formed, if families are to stay close, if  stories or songs are to be made, if ideals are ever to be kept, hard work is the high and never-ending cost. In a fallen world, where the good that was meant to be was broken, we have to wrestle every day to love God, to do justice, to love mercy, to make beauty. But God wrestles with us. His Spirit incites us to the fight with visions of the good that was meant to be. His Son joins us in the battle, brother and lover who suffers so that we may overcome. And the Father waits at the end of our battle, the “great rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Tears are flooding my eyes as i write, as i realize this labor i’ve so often bemoaned and despised and rejected and fled from, this hard work she speaks of–there’s another word for it:

Suffering.

God is disciplining me.

He is binding me to Himself.

He is wooing me deeper into His love.

 

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