Out Of Dark Places

I spend a great deal of time thinking about what my mind looks like.  Mostly I see a masquerade of dancing couples, acrobats, and gentlemen wearing coattails. To an outsider, it might look and feel like chaos but if you take a moment to be still, you’ll see that everything is working and moving together in an elaborate act of balance.  An old song came on earlier, assaulting this mental party with nostalgia. All the dancers and performers stopped what they were doing and moved to the side like cooperative hostages.

“I’ve been a fool and I have been blind.  I can never leave the past behind.”

That song took me straight back to August 2012.  I was that Lauren again, and I hated myself.  Though I was six months free of an abusive relationship, it still left me questioning whether there was anything good left inside of me.  How many times was I going to make myself learn the same lessons over and over? My mind had a new guest of honor and it’s name was Shame– for how stupid I’d been, how long I’d stayed, and how thoroughly I’d squandered all my second chances.

“Regrets collect like old friends.  Here to relive your darkest moments.”

Every memory of that time in my life is drenched with self-loathing and fear.  I constantly worried that my ex was finally going to act on his threat to kill me, but the scariest thought was that I wasn’t sure that would be such a bad thing.

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone with this and found myself in the company of people who spoke in direct opposition to that shame.  I blasted my City Group with TMI and listened as a group of people prayed for my safety.  I sat in The Johnson’s living room until all hours of the night, trying so hard to believe Rachel as she told me God still cared about me, that there was no mistake too deep to change that.

People offered couches for me to sleep on when I was afraid, and sent text messages, reminding me of God’s plan and purpose for everything.  I often responded like a despondent teenager, but there was a glimpse of belief in the back of my mind. It was small and wily and difficult to pinpoint, but it told me to believe their words. You could call it hope but what it felt like was a tiny bit of fight.

That fight did it’s best to walk into the center of my mind and tell the dark and dancing thoughts that they were wrong—I wasn’t worthless, I wasn’t doomed to make the same mistakes over and over—but it still took some time and a bit of work before it could fully take the main stage.

“I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope.  It’s a shot in the dark aimed right at my throat.”

For some reason, when that song brought on this flood of memories, I was filled with an almost breathless sense of nostalgia.  What’s wrong with me—do I miss feeling miserable? Is there some part of me that likes to walk around with a hole in my chest? Why would I feel a tinge of longing for a time of my life that was so dark and desperate?

But I don’t think that was it at all.  I think the song rekindled that tiny bit of fight and all the triumph that eventually came with it.  No, I don’t miss the darkness and I don’t miss the uncertainty but I can look back at my weakness and know that those people were right all along: I am worthy of God’s love, and his forgiveness.

“I am done with my graceless heart.  I’m gonna cut it out and then restart.”

Even now, I don’t think I would trade away any of that darkness.  It pushed me to a place that was so low I could never have found my way out on my own– which is perhaps the sweetest truth of all.  Nostalgia can be tricky, and memories painful, but they also serve as a reminder that we have found our way out of dark places. I can’t imagine anything more hopeful than that.

Doug Serven