One of my favorite quotes goes like this:
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” (M. Oliver)
During this Sukkot week, I discerned that God was asking me to drag that box out from where I keep it carefully locked away in my heart. I found that to be a peculiar request during a time set aside for rejoicing and celebration. Having experienced God as teacher, though, I’ve learned not to be surprised by what He will use as a lesson plan! And so I dragged the box out. I’ll be honest, it took me a whole day to open it. At 51 years of age, I think that box is the fullest one I have, aside from my box of God’s grace and mercy. I don’t rifle through it often, yet am ever aware of its existence and weight, just below the “surface”. As much as I didn’t want to darken my sukkah experience, I wanted more to be obedient, and to know what God had for me to learn. And so, I cracked that box open.
I pulled out the memories of a childhood that was more like a nightmare. I unpacked years of battling poverty. I stacked regrets in one corner and mistakes in another. I laid the broken heart pieces carefully on a pillow. I took a look at my own sin, a darkness all its own. Sin that took me further than I thought I would go, kept me longer than I thought I would stay and cost me more than I’ll EVER be able to pay. As I continued unpacking the box, I came to understand that I had shared from it through the years, unknowingly handing others darkness, myself. There I sat that day, with the darkness from my own life threatening to overwhelm me. It was impossible for me not to notice that I had even added to the box since I started my journey on this Narrow Path. I walked in man’s ways instead of God’s alone. I allowed man to teach me instead of Scripture, even when I saw certain truths with my own eyes. In turn, I shared man’s teachings with others. Sharing darkness. “What now?” I cried out to God. “What do You want me to do with all of this darkness?” Faithful as He is, the answer wasn’t long in coming. YOU aren’t going to do anything with it except behold it. I am going to repack it with light!”
For the next hour or so, with my darkness exposed before my God, He began to shine His light on it. He showed me the good things that came out of the darkness where it was applicable, and showed me the lessons I needed to learn in the instances where it was I doling out darkness. Above all, He assured me that it will all fit into the bigger story of my life, the story I do not know the ending to yet. But He does, oh He does! He showed me how this year’s cycle of Holy Days hold profound meaning for my life. I stepped out of idolatry right before Passover, the Holy Day that declares His ability and willingness to deliver us. I accepted His Torah on Shavu’ot, just as if I was standing at the bottom of Mt Sinai at the first presentation. I went through the process of honest confession and repentance during the Days of Awe, and afflicted my soul on Yom Kippur. I’ve spent Sukkot understanding that everything I see and everything I have is temporary. He is the only eternal in my life, and all I have is from Him. I happily anticipate the next day I will mark in my journey, Simchat Torah, where I will begin my first cycle of Torah reading with only one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I began to understand there, during my sukkah experience, that everything fits together, the good, the bad, and the oh, so ugly.
I looked around at all the darkness, but somehow none of it looked as dark as it had when I unpacked it. I can’t change anything about the past, I can only extract the light from the dark and decide to carry it instead. I can’t take back any darkness that I doled out, only be aware that I will share what’s in my box, whether I intend to or not, be it light or dark. I come out of this Holy Day cycle washed clean and forgiven; a new me, if you will. Before my very eyes, my box of darkness was transformed by God into a vessel of light. His light. I replaced some of the items that I had painstakingly unpacked since they now had light coming from them. My past and my journey are, after all, part of who I am. The items that held no light at all didn’t get repacked. I gave them to God for disposal. The hardest things to decide what to do with were the heartbreaks. Giving them up left me feeling vulnerable. In many instances, these heartbreaks changed the course of my life! To let go of them felt akin to denying them. I could almost feel God’s arm around me as I looked at them, wondering what to do with them. After a few minutes, He slipped the Scripture into my spirit that says:
~A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.~ Ezekiel 36
I knew then the answer. I left the broken pieces of my “old” heart there, with Him. I prayerfully gave thanks for what I learned, and spent a spell just being still, and knowing He is God.
As I stood to return to the duties that are in my day, I glanced back at all the darkness I had carried for so long one more time, using the eyes of my spirit. The piles of darkness I had stacked dissolved under God’s brilliant light. The box in my heart felt light and brand new…like me! Although I will experience seasons of darkness in this human experience, I will never look at it in the same way again. And I will certainly never carry it around in a box like it is mine to keep!
I hope that God is revealing new things to you as you seek Him during these Holy Days, and that your walk with Him is ever deepening. I’ll “see” you next week!