For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. – Proverbs 23:7 (KJV)
The “dark night of the soul” is such a cold, lonesome place to find oneself. In his book, “Joy Comes With the Morning,” William Kinnaird titles the first section Encouraging Ourselves. The title for the first chapter is The Surest Ego Builder. As I read that I said to myself, “ I don’t need to build my ego.”
I thought about that title for a while. I continued reading. Kinnaird said, “Unless we feel good about ourselves, unless our ego is healthy, we can’t help anybody else. We don’t have anything to offer.”
Surely, not I. I don’t need encouragement. After all, wasn’t I the one who always offered the listening ear. Didn’t I pray with and for others who shared their stories and concerns with me. I always greeted everyone with a smile. When anyone asked, “How are you doing?” I gave a quick reply, “Fine. I’m fine.”
The more I thought about it though, the more Kinnaird’s comment got my attention. Especially the last sentence, “We don’t have anything to offer.” Again, it was as if he had ripped me open and was peering deep into my soul. I felt I didn’t have anything to offer. But why? I began looking back over the past eight months to search out the reason. Just when did the dark night of the soul began for me? I thought, “a night fall begins at dusk. I needed to discover my “dusk.””
Dusk sets in as the dark night of my soul begins.
November 14, 2015 . . . The beloved 3P Women’s ministry, a ministry of prayer, praise and fellowship for the women in my Sunday School class, came to a close. I had been blessed with co-leading the ministry for two years. 12 precious women met monthly for Bible study, life enrichment discussions, encouragement, developing and deepening relationships with others and deepening their faith in Christ. My co-leader, whom I speak of in the “about” page of Whisperings of Grace, a missionary serving in the local area, would be leaving our church to attend one in her mission field. Oh how I would miss her! Both she and I needed to take a sabbatical and was hoping someone else would take-over. However, no one felt equipped to continue the ministry. Thus, that last fellowship would be our last time together as a group. It was a bittersweet day. Perhaps it was for the best. Our church would be changing its scheduling in the new year. Many of us would begin attending different services and Sunday School classes. It would give us the opportunity to expand our relationships beyond the fellowship that we had grown accustomed to over the past six or seven years. I could only hope the individual prayer and accountability teams that had developed in 3P would continue to meet for prayer and to offer each other encouragement. Letting go was hard to do. Dusk sets in as the dark night of my soul begins.
The dusk deepened on the following Saturday. It was a dark valley for me that day. I am my mother’s only daughter and have been her primary caregiver since my father died in 1980. Her harsh angry words to me and my husband, along with an attempt at striking me with an object, cut me deeply emotionally. So deeply that on the 30 mile drive home I tearfully commented to my husband, “Don’t be surprised if you come home one day and find your gun missing and me laying in the woods out back.”
So, I did as mom asked. I stayed away. Thanksgiving came and went. No visit. No turkey and dressing. No family reunion. She didn’t call me. I didn’t call her. A trip to my daughter’s house in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains did little to lift my spirits. I developed a case of herpes zoster, adult chicken pox, “the shingles” while there. (Oh what a nasty disease.)
December came with all its trappings. There were office parties and church fellowships to attend. Waking up together Christmas morning with the grandchildren. But there was no Christmas visit with mom. Again, not even a phone call. I tried to appear cheerful for everyone. I refused to let the painful shingles interrupt my life. Yet on the inside, emotionally, I was swiveling up. Joy was ebbing away and I didn’t even realize it.
Perhaps my ego did need rebuilding.
Hmmm. Perhaps Mr. Kinnaird was correct. Perhaps the shingles were the result of an unhealthy ego. I was no longer teaching. Teacher identified “me.” The identity of “care-giver” for my mom had been rejected. The next several months would tell the tale. Perhaps my ego did need rebuilding. Indeed.
2016 revealed more than I wanted to admit.
The shadows of dusk deepened
In January, I packed up all mom’s belongings that I had been storing for her since she broke up house-keeping and moved into the independent living facility. I gathered together all of her records, files and financial reports I have been accumulating as her Power of Attorney. I loaded it all in my car and carted it the 30 some miles and deposited it at my brother’s house, who only lives five miles from our mom. He attempted to refuse the delivery. But after the private conversation which my quiet spoken husband insisted on having with him, he agreed to step in and take on the responsibility as mom’s care-giver and give me a year to heal…emotionally, physically and spiritually. Yet, the shadows of dusk deepened.
As chapter one came to a close in Mr. Kinnaird’s book, he commented that for a long time he wasn’t able to minister to anybody else. He was to consumed with his own hurts. As I read his comments I empathized with him. I knew exactly what he was talking about. Then what he wrote next seemed to leap off the page at me. I KNEW Grace was whispering to me, reminding me of His promises. Mr. Kinnaird stated that his favorite scripture verse is Romans 8:28. I consider it my life verse. It has been since I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and savior at the age of 17. It’s the verse I go to when I’m hurting or when I don’t understand why things happen the way they do. It’s the promise I cling to.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”-Romans 8:28 (NIV)
Even though the dusk was deepening. I can now see how Grace was and is healing me. An old song from my youth came to mind that reminds me of this. The lyrics to it are:
Are you discouraged and are you blue?
Are clouds obscuring the sun from view?
Keep trusting Jesus, though storms assail.
You have His promise He will not fail.
It’s always darkest before the dawn.
Don’t be discouraged but carry on.
He’ll not forsake you, the sun will break through.
It’s always darkest before the dawn.
He knows your heartache, He understands,
Just put your problems in His great hands,
No trouble meets you but in His will,
He’s not forgotten, He loves you still.
I can hardly wait to see what else Grace has to say as I continue reading “Joy Comes With the Morning.” I hope you will join me again.
Prayer: Father God, your Word also tells us in Romans 8:26-27 “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Lord God, thank you for the one who intercedes on our behalf. In Chris name. Amen