Don’t be afraid of the dark.
Now I know the rules, New Year’s posts are supposed to be forward-looking, inspiring and hopeful. They should launch you into the new year!
Be your best self
Put the past behind you
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
But let’s be honest. We live in dark days. It’s harder and harder to be inspired and hopeful for the future. But if you believe as I do that everything happens for a reason, there is something to be learned, even in the dark.
Most people are scared of the dark. Some grow out of it, some don’t. Still others embrace the darkness and celebrate the nightlife.
I am somewhere in-between. The thing about darkness is that it’s hard to see the way ahead, sometimes impossible.
Don’t be afraid of the dark
The stressful meeting at work
The impending surgery
The loss of your job
The end of life
Here are four lessons I have learned in the dark…
Appreciate what’s important
Arguably the greatest darkness of the last century was the Holocaust. The display of shoes in the Holocaust Museum is marked with these words of remembrance:
“We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.
“We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers
“From Prague, Paris and Amsterdam,
“And because we are only made of fabric and leather
“And not of blood and flesh,
“Each one of us avoided the hellfire.”
The first time I walked through that display it transported me out of the oppressive heat of Washington, D.C., out of the mental schedule of the day, out of my insulated life – to another place.
Like a mental reset, it reminded me of the very few things in this life that are important.
Celebrate the past
I’m a “forget it and move on” kind of guy. I’ve never attended a class reunion and don’t often go down memory lane.
I live in the present and celebrate the past. I’ve actually made a list of those people and events in my past that shaped who I am. It includes good times and bad times, successes and failures, the best and worst of people; my 5-Minute Drill brings these all together in a way that helps you understand how they have shaped you.
I find that my miserable failures have taught me to succeed and the hardest relationships of the past have strengthened those in the present.
When you’re standing in darkness it’s sometimes hard to see the light, but it’s there.
Focus on the present
The world shrinks when darkness comes. Standing still, maybe one step forward. That’s a good thing. Rushing through life leaves behind the opportunities of the present.
Groping in the dark makes you mindful of what is right in front of you – you know, the things you often take for granted and ignore. Taking care of the body that fails you, nursing the relationship that tests you, struggling to understand what just happened; as Annie Dillard said, “These are our few live seasons. Let us live them as purely as we can, in the present.”
Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring – live them one at a time without racing for the next.
Depend upon God
Churchill: “Americans will always do the right thing, only after they have tried everything else.”
The things I know – that God is good, that his will is perfect, that he’s in control of my life and only intends the best for me – these I often file away somewhere, while I go about my life. When darkness comes there I am, like a fool without a friend.
Last night a friend reminded me that faith is standing, living, thinking and acting upon the things you know. Far from a blind leap. Faith is beyond belief; it is depending upon the God you know.
Standing, living, thinking and acting upon the things you know.
The things you know live in the dark and the light. They are what T.S. Eliot called, “the permanent things.” They are true in every situation and teach us about ourselves, others and God. Sometimes they teach us most in what we call the “dark times” of life.
So I broke the rules, but maybe these rules were meant to be broken.