How the Light Gets In

Last Tuesday I received some tough news—a beast of a horse pill to swallow.  I bet you can relate. Suddenly, your skin starts to feel cold, the room gets blurry, and the conversation in the room sounds like that droning “wah wah” teacher talk of Miss Othmar from Peanuts.  You’ve forgotten what you ate for breakfast and aren’t quite sure if words, tears, or laughter to mask the pain is appropriate in the moment.  The whole “adulting” thing seems entirely overrated.  

After a week to digest, readjust expectations, and lick the wounds of that blow, I’m feeling much better.  Time does provide the complex salve necessary to make sense of madness. However, inthe heat of the moment, I feel a primal need to find God, and fast—to run to that loving source of comfort.  I always sense that tangible power in nature.  Thankfully, the silver lining in that day was the gift of clear, crisp fall weather to temper the stormy disposition of my heart.  I did the only thing I knew to do: I hit the hiking trails at my favorite nearby park, Radnor Lake.  This is my high church.  For two solid hours, I got lost in her music.

There were no inspiring podcasts or feel good playlists on Spotify. I didn't even take my phone. Nor did I take pictures to later post on Instagram. I needed to be all in—immersed and undistracted by the false hit of social media’s temporary high.  I put one foot in front of the other, stared down creation, and looked for answers to my riddle.  I didn’t much find them.  

What I did find was far more literal if unsexy.  I noticed warning signs all throughout the park trail.  The warning signs kept barking, “Fragile Ecosystem,” followed by a slew of “don’ts” such as running, picnicking, dog walking, and the like.  In my 20’s, I’d scoff at these rules, reading them as light suggestions while running up and down the trails like a grinning, coked-up banshee.

Last Tuesday, in a more humble state, they made perfect sense.  If this nature’s trail was my Church, these warning signs had become the Ten Commandments.  

Now I’m all for mental toughness, make no mistake. The idea of training the mind to persevere in times of discouragement, and emotionally detach from circumstance in a healthy way so as not to fold under the deluge of emotion is a practice worthy of devotion.  That old victim mentality can sneak in the back door of our perspective and camp out indefinitely if we’re not careful!

Yet I do believe we must honor the fragile nature of our inner ecosystem.  We must do this by slowing down to honor our experience, feel the pain, and preserve our story with kindness and compassion.  Otherwise, we become proud, crusty iterations of humanity, bowing down to ego while abandoning true Presence.  We must stay soft—open.  

Therein lies the paradox, my friend.  It’s the constant toggling between bold action and bleeding vulnerability.  It’s the both-and, not the either-or.  When we lean into this tension, we build those tiny accessory muscles of resilience.  Resilience, over time, breeds a version of joy that outweighs happiness.  I believe true joy looks a lot more like equanimity than certainty.  

What broken pieces of your heart do you find yourself picking up off the kitchen floor these days? How did they get there? Your journey’s been arduous and I can imagine you’re weary—weathered.  No, you’ll never be able to fit all those pieces perfectly back together.  And for this you must grieve. But you must also take heart because God’s in the grieving and the healing.  He didn’t bring you all this way just to leave you.  As the brilliant Mr. Cohen says, “There’s a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.”

Honor your story—your light—your pain.  It’s the only way you’ll find the courage to keep writing it.

Love & Gratitude,