I think – I am cautiously hopeful – that I’m coming back from wherever it is I’ve been this past month. I’m not exactly sure where I was or why I went there, but I’m pretty sure postpartum hormones and six months of sleep deprivation had something to do with it. And I’m very sure I don’t ever want to go there again.
It was dark, and scary, sort of like an alley in a seedy part of town at two in the morning, with overflowing dumpsters, sticky sidewalks, and creepy shadows, a place where you’re either going to slip in a giant pile of doggy doo and fall and crack your pate, or a thug is going to jump out of those creepy shadows and hold you up at knife point unless you turn over all your money only you don’t have any because you suddenly realize you’re standing there in the damp cold wearing nothing but your skivvies.
Except that makes it sound like it’s almost funny, a comic version of fear.
It didn’t feel funny, though when I look back on it, I’m not sure why. It’s not like anything about my life is different now, or was different a month ago before I went to hoodoo-land. Maybe that’s why it’s so frightening: because nothing was different, and at the same time everything was different; reality was suffused with fear, and no amount of deep breathing, yoga, positive self-talk, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or even prayer changed that. I felt alone in the alley of the shadow of death.
And it scared me spitless. It scared me something-else-less, too, but I’m a nice Christian girl and we’re not supposed to say such things. And certainly not out loud. (If you hear hysterical laughter, that’s my husband, who hears such things fly from my mouth on an all-too-regular basis, and is kindly refraining from calling me a hypocrite.)
Madeleine L’Engle wrote frankly in several of her books about going through periods of atheism. I never understood that. I’m not sure I understand even now, but I definitely have been in a place of frightening agnosticism these past weeks, praying ridiculous and illogical prayers like, “Jesus, please be real” over and over again. For someone who wants her life to revolve around Christ, it’s terrifying to think that the center may not be a Person but a black hole.
I am grateful not to be standing on the edge of that abyss today. I am grateful that I’ve only had moments of looking over the edge into the darkness this whole past week. I am even grateful that when I was on the brink, I had the courage to look, to face the darkness and the fear, and to believe – oh, help my unbelief – that there is Light in the darkness, even if I couldn’t see it.
I’ve been to the seedy alleyways of my mind before, and I expect I’ll go back there for a few more rounds of sightseeing in the future – because it’s sooo much fun – but for now I am glad to be back from the dark place, to feel my normal self begin to emerge again, and to believe with my heart and not just my lips that the Light is coming – indeed, has already come – blazing into the darkness.
For anyone else who’s drifted into those scary dark mental spaces, here are a few blog posts that provided the pinpricks of light I needed to give me hope. Maybe they’ll help you, too:
Love or Fear by Susan Forshey
Christmas at the Solstice by Ann Voscamp
And if you’re too tired or too busy to read, here are a few sermons to listen to from our church’s Advent series on Isaiah 9. I cried my way through all three, because they spoke so perfectly to what I’ve been feeling – and fearing – all this long, dark month:
Unto Us A Child Is Born (part 1) by Tim Dearborn
Unto Us A Child Is Born (part 2) by Tim Dearborn
Unto Us A Child Is Born (part 3) by Jeff VanDuzer