Whispers the o'er-fraught heart, and bids it break.
I'm feeling sad. All over the place.
With the unfolding of stories related to last Friday's shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, I've been touched again and again by the pain and horror of the deaths of so many innocent people, especially those of small children. While I waited for words of my own to come, my heart broke.
Eventually I found my way to a place of comfort--to these words by Dallas Willard in his book, Renovation of the Heart:
Little children, whose hearts are not fully formed, are especially cared for by God. "Their angels in the heavens are always in direct contact with my Father in the heavens," Jesus said. (Matthew 18:10, PAR). Knowing what happens to little children in this world, how could one keep their sanity without such an assurance? Jesus assures us that children are cared for by God, no matter how things appear to our senses.
For days we sat under a shroud of gray skies that cast a pall over the landscape. Then the first snowstorm of the season rolled toward us: a foot of snow predicted, high winds, blizzard conditions, and unsafe roads. I had visions of pajama time--reading, cooking and watching movies, with a storm raging outdoors.
Jack and I settled in to watch a Christmas movie on television. When our satellite signal gave out we switched to a dvd. At bedtime we checked on the snow--about four inches--and turned in for the night.
At 3 a.m. I awoke to the sound of the wind howling. I got up and noticed the power was off. At 5:00, it was still out and I went back to bed. We got up at 6:30 and made coffee--grateful to have a gas range instead of electric. Around 9:00, Jack went out to blow snow and dig out the driveway, while I read, called the power company, and talked with my niece on the phone. I also prayed for people without power who might be alone and in need of help.
Late in the day, Jack and I went out for an early dinner. We came home to a dark house.
Here's the hard part: three doors to the south, the lights were on. Behind us, everyone had power. Six doors to the north, more lights. We huddled in down comforters with candles lit. It was too dark to read, and too early to go to bed.
I realized that we could be in for a long wait. We would be warm enough, I was certain, but I didn't know how cold the house might get before morning, or whether our pipes would freeze. And I didn't know how long it would be.
Jack and I didn't feel much like talking, but I was glad he was home. I journaled by candlelight. I reflected on the past year, month by month: the encounters I've had with people, places and events. I thought about patterns, ups and downs, life rhythms, change. Occasionally, I looked out the window at our neighbors' lights.
And still we waited.
I noticed the way that being without power made me more aware of my own internal sense of powerlessness--especially in light of the fact that those around me were allowed to return to normalcy. I felt frustrated, and alone. I also thought about the way tragic events put us in touch with our own deep pain, and our many sadnesses. Tragic events put us in touch with the collective sorrow we all carry. I wept. I wept a lot.
We stayed up as late as we could, and then slept with comforters piled high.
Once again, we awoke to darkness. But power company trucks were sitting in front of our house. They sat there for a full hour. "Why the delay?" we wondered. At last, they sent up a bucket. A man stretched out a long pole, and touched something on the wire. Immediately the lights came on, and the furnace started humming. It seemed so simple.
Later, the sun rose on a dazzling blue and white winter morning--our Winter Solstice--the year's shortest day. And, a few brief hours later, the sun set to mark the beginning of the year's longest night.
It happens every year at this time. We wait together through the long dark night. Then, remarkably, an imperceptible shift occurs, and the light once again turns and begins to move toward us. It moves slowly--like dawn, or healing, or hope. And hope, in the words of Barbara Brown Taylor, "may be faint, but it is not feeble."
I wish I could always remember with certainty this truth. That when I am experiencing my darkest moments, light is already on the way. That when life is difficult, and the difficulty lasts, with no way to resolve itself, there is always something hopeful. And at the right moment it will surely arrive.
Alexander Shaia connects our Winter Solstice shift to Christmas in a beautiful way:
The Winter Solstice and Christmas share an essential link. Christianity's core is incarnation in body, planet and cosmos. Christmas was chosen for the Winter Solstice because we are expressing the truth of the Northern Hemisphere and an inner spiritual truth. At the time of the darkest dark - that is precisely the soil, the womb of new radiance. When the calendar was changed - the three days between the Winter Solstice and Christmas served a higher purpose. Christmas was now no longer simply the proclamation that at the deep dark is born new light - but on the third day after the Winter Solstice - the naked eye may see light increase. Christ is a personal reality that expresses cosmic truth. May we live in anticipation that on Christmas morn - we will choose to see light's increase within as well as without.