Turning Our Eyes Upon Jesus

Turning Our Eyes Upon Jesus

The last few weeks have been difficult.  Last October was a bad-health-month (like a bad-hair-day, only like 1000 times worse), and it seems that this October followed suit.  Maybe my illnesses have least favorite seasons.  Being sick feels manageable some fraction of the time, but over the past month, it has NOT felt do-able.  Yesterday was particularly bad, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I felt poured out, wrung out, and blown-dry with a hair dryer.  I had what felt like nothing left.  My husband was shivering in bed with 102-degree fever, sputtering, “Is this what chills feel like?” My children were acting like the three-year-old and two-year-old that they are, and I was dancing on the impatient side of parenting.  I was not savoring each moment with them, that’s for sure.

Bed time is sacred time at our house.  We read, rock, and sing about Jesus. The kids have special song requests, each one gets his and her own time in the rocking chair with mom, and I get to sniff their sweet little babyish heads before bed (I think that baby head-sniffing works better at calming my adrenaline rushes than any medication that I have found).  In between Jesus songs, my daughter usually comes up with deep questions that I am not prepared for, like, “Mommy, what is death?”, or like, “How is Jesus going to come out of my heart so that I can sit on His lap and rub His beard like I rub daddy’s beard?”. I stutter and stammer for a few minutes, and then God in His wisdom usually helps me communicate some little nugget of truth that hopefully her three-year-old mind can comprehend.  She deems my response acceptable, closes her eyes, and settles her fair curly head into the bend of my arm, safe and comforted, trusting that she knows enough now to rest for the night.

Bedtime last night did not feel sacred. I was an unholy terror, and I hurried and scolded my kids, stretched too thin in all angles.  I just wanted to go to bed and have the day over. I was hurting physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and I was done fighting.  Rocking a child, however, seems to be the antithesis of hurry.  The act of sitting in glider with my son and singing a JJ Heller lullaby was enough to snap me out of my impatient self-centered focus. I pleaded with God to help me to be present with my children, at least for the final few minutes of their day. I sniffed his freshly washed hair for a couple seconds longer, and laid him in his crib with his blessing: “May the Lord bless you and keep you…”.

My daughter met me at the chair, and asked for the Jesus song. Which Jesus song?  You know, mom, the one where Jesus is REALLY BIG.  Where His face shines.  I sing the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”, and she sings the chorus with me word-for-word.  After the song, my big-hearted prophetess child says with the concern and agony of a 25-year-old, “Mom, why does it feel like Jesus isn’t here?  If it is so dark in this world, and Jesus is light, He can’t be here, can He?  And Jesus is too big to be in my heart.  He’s not in my heart.  He’s too big.  He would break my heart.  Is Jesus not here?”

On this night, October 31st, a night of darkness, when barely three-year-old daughter questions the existence of her Savior, my throat swelled, and my eyes filled, and I said, “Baby, I know how you feel. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like Jesus is here, but He is.  I promise. He promises.  And it is dark, but His light is here.”  I said a few more things.  I felt a lot more things. She asked a few more despairing questions, and she finally settled into the tension of not seeing yet believing.  She was okay.  Jesus was with Her.  She could rest.

I laid her down, tucked her princess comforter around her tiny body, blessed her, prayed over her and her brother, closed the door, and sobbed.  OH, I know how she feels, but I never imagined that she would feel this so soon.  But God met me in her questioning.  In this dark night, full of pain in all forms, God met me through the need of my darling daughter. He answered my despairing questions through my own mouth as  I answered her despairing questions.  We will keep trusting.  He is present. He is good. He loves us.  He is sovereign.  My sweet dreamers will learn to trust and hope, as I am learning to trust and hope, in the One who is present, gentle, and faithful. We can’t always see, but we know because we have seen undeniable manifestations of His goodness.  We therefore

Turn our eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.  (Helen H. Limmel, 1922).

Who is Scared of the Dark?

A five-year-old runs house-to-house around her rural neighborhood in the early days of October just before dusk approaches. The sun is still entirely visible on the horizon, and she is oblivious to the impending darkness that has continued to approach earlier and earlier due to the recent fall equinox. After only five years of living with the shifts in the seasonal patterns, she has not yet come to expect them.  In the days prior, she could play for much longer after dinner with her friends in her neighborhood.  They could play hide-and-seek and race on their bikes for what seemed like an eternity before she was beckoned in for bath time. Still early in the evening, she shudders as she senses the darkness begin to descend upon the evening.  A haze seems to distort her vision, and she realizes that the sun has disappeared when she wasn’t watching. Fear and foreboding flood her little body as she sprints for her home.  She doesn’t even stop to bid her buddies a farewell for the day.  She is too desperate to escape the canopy of darkness that chases her home.  She does not understand this fear of the dark, but only knows the experience of dread, helplessness, and torment that comes with it.

Twenty years later, I still have the echoes of the visceral response that comes with the descending of the darkness on fall and winter evenings.  God has undoubtedly healed, and I am still reminded of my early winter prisons as the temperature drops and the days shorten.

There is this disorder called SAD. How appropriate.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder that awakens during autumn and goes dormant with the arrival of spring.  There is a high correlation between decreased moods (depression) and a scarcity of light.  Why is this?  The scientific answer involves decreased levels of melatonin from the sun, serotonin, and circadian rhythm disruptions. SAD, a subtype of depression, involves absence of hope, energy, worth, motivation, concentration, and can even lead to suicide.  SAD is directly related to a loss of light.  Because we are complex biological, psychological, social, and spiritual beings, I believe that it is impossible do divorce this condition from what we know about darkness in the context of Jesus’ relationship with light and darkness.  This does not downplay the physiological and psychological mechanisms involved in the manifestation of mental illness.  It is real.  And we are super-complex.

I’ve been wrestling with this whole issue of darkness as I study Genesis 1:3-5 and 14-19. Is the darkness intrinsically evil?  I could see that in verse 4, it says “God saw that the light was good” (ESV).  It never mentions that God says that the darkness is good, yet in verses 14-19, He created day and night, and he created seasons.  He saw that these were good.  In the midst of this question that lies in the safety of intellectual theological inquiry, I ask a more difficult question:  God, where were you in my darkness, in my nights, and in my suffering?

Much darkness and light that we see mentioned in scripture is symbolic, but there is something about real, legitimate darkness that brings about fear, pain, and agony.  Genesis 1:16 says, “God made two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars” (ESV).  He created lights to “rule” the day and the night.  In this text, I see His promise to me. The darkness may seem incredibly dark.  The night might seem obscure and black.  But His light is there, and it is ruling.  He rules the dark. Always.  He is always sovereign.  Always supreme.  He is the light, and He rules the darkness (literal and figurative).  We are desperate for light.  Our bodies reflect this in incredible ways as we battle physical struggles as the result of lack of natural sunlight and shortened days.  Our spirits, however, do not have to ever be deprived of the light that Christ has to offer.  We can always soak in His rays, even on the bleakest days or the darkest nights.  When we aren’t soaking in H       is rays, tiny pinpricks of His light are enough to exert control over the darkness.

God faithfully established His stars to light even those darkest nights for that five-year-old child. That child was hidden under the shadow of His wings. Darkness did not win, and darkness will not win. Light was created with complete dominion over its power. As days shorten and I begin to face reminders of the dark, I will continue to worship the King of light.

 

 

Eternal Dawn

I am familiar with the power of the night,

With the darkness that swallows me whole.

With the enemies, once real, now ghosts,

Yet just as real, if not stronger than before.

The blackness ushers me to the torture chambers,

To re-live the bloody nightmares.

With fingers wrapped around my throat.

When, oh darkness, will you release my soul?

There sleeps a babe in the room adjacent,

Under the light of a new covenant,

One of freedom and beauty,

Where starlight waltzes in the reflection of the moon.

And glistening unicorns prance in the moonbeams.

Let the haunting of the old oath die.

With new life, deliver us from the demons.

Break the generational chains, so that the light can shine again.

There is a power greater than the darkness,

The power that illuminates the night with the reflection of the sun,

Her face lifts to mirror the glory of the day,

And the impossible marriage ceremony is performed.

Light will conquer with love.

The eternal dawn arises.