Can you help others when you’re hurting?

April McCullohs shared this posting with me last week, and I knew it was perfect for my readers here. I’ve often felt like in order to minister to others I have to be fully 100% healed of my pain from the past. Not so. And, actually, I believe God can use us more when we walk with a limp. This is one of those posts you might want to print off and read with a cup of coffee and an open heart. I pray it blesses you as it blessed me.

I’m six days out from walking onto the stage of our church, sitting on a stool next to our lead pastor, and sharing my story.

The one where I’m five and a boy steals my innocence.

The one where Jesus meets me, over and over again, punctuating my pain with healing touches, slowly transforming an injured identity into one that’s sewn up with threads of Truth and Life.

I’ve had months to anticipate this moment, months to prepare. I didn’t even initiate this project—it came to me in prayer and I have very hesitantly submitted. The whole process of preparation, though, has surprised me.

I thought we were good on this.

I thought we’d made a ton of progress.

I thought every stone had been overturned.

I thought this period of preparation would be one of celebration and reflection, of merely finding words to describe the healing work that had already transpired.

Instead, I find myself six days out and six leagues from whole.

New pain, deeper pain, has been uncovered. New memories have returned, piercing through the fogginess of twenty-three years of recollection with a frightening clarity. And I find myself scrambling, with this pending deadline, to fix myself and quickly.

I try to schedule a session this week with my counselor, asking to Skype, if necessary. The earlier, the better. I need to lay these demons to rest.

I have to prepare to share this Sunday.

My well-intentioned husband sends me to the spa and Starbucks, for an afternoon free from the babies. He confesses later that he hopes “my day off” will “make me happier.”

So I can prepare to share this Sunday.

I meet with my bestie, over coffee and a shared berry crumble. I hash out my recently discovered wound, hoping for some cathartic release from the pain,

because I have to share this Sunday.

And then I turn my thoughts to scripture. Surely there’s some passage, some principle on healing that I’ve overlooked. Surely there’s something in there that can erase this pain. My Bible opens to Psalm 139, probably because the creases in its binding prefer a fair amount of weight on either side, pinning the Psalms in the middle. My eyes land on a section I usually skip over, the depressing one sandwiched between happier confessions.

even the darkness

I read. And it catches my attention like never before.

even the darkness is not dark to You

I keep reading, above and around that very phrase.

If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there…
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me and the light around me will be night…”
Even the darkness is not dark to You…

And then comes a moment, when soul yields to spirit, and words are received from a holy Somewhere Else,

I am not afraid of your darkness.

Somewhere along the line, at some point on this healing path, I’ve strung the transcendent moments together, forgetting the dark thread that has connected their beauty. I’ve forgotten that between my summer camp experience at thirteen and my sacred driveway-talk-with-Mom at seventeen, my counseling sessions at twenty-five and my conversation with Dad at twenty-eight, there has been a lot of darkness. In my hurry to summarize my years of healing, trying to concentrate the redemption into bite-sized, fill-in-the-blank principles, I’ve short-changed my relationship with God into something it is not. Because here, I read,

Even the darkness.

And in these three words I can rest.

I don’t need to be fixed. I don’t need to hurry to a place of happiness. I don’t need to hasten my grief along. I don’t need a scripture or an answer for my newfound pain. While I will continue to “work on it,” I don’t need to expect it to disappear with the wave of some psychological wand, especially within some specific time constraint

like six days.

My God tells me that He is okay with my darkness. He is not uncomfortable with my smudged mascara or my tear-stained pillowcase. He is not antsy, ready for me to be done with this already, ready for Happy April to return.

He enters into this present moment, pulls up a chair and sits in silence.

So I have six days left to prepare. And I may just spend them here, in this place, unrushed and unafraid. Because isn’t that what my healing is, after all? That I have a God, a God-made-Flesh, who was and is present in my pain. A God who has never left me, and promises there is nothing that can make him leave,

even the darkness.

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