A couple weeks ago I posted a story called Into the Light about a young girl born into a world of dysfunction and the inevitable pull of the darkness that ensnared her. It’s about loss of trust and identity, but it’s also about hope and the love that found her in the darkness.
You can read the story here.
Today, I want to talk about the first paragraph of this story. I’m not a literary writer and certainly don’t want to come off as pretentious. But the first paragraph of this story is quite eye roll worthy. Back during it’s first publication in a small literary magazine, the editor suggested minor changes. I was thankful because that meant she understood some of what I was trying to say. Now, years later, even with some professional help (literary and mental, ha-ha), I still review it with a critical eye. How can I make it simpler? Can I word it differently? The truth is that I can’t think of anything different that would allow me to say what I mean using other words.
Here is the first paragraph again:
“As the brightness of God’s truth shines upon us, a shadow falls behind—an extension of what we are when the light illuminates. When the truth is obstructed, no shadows exist because what once illuminated us is blocked by the very shadows that are not yet an extension of ourselves … for what we think is not really what we see … at all.”
I’m compelled to dwell on this paragraph because it’s the essence of the story. It’s the point, the meat, the take away. It’s too important to ignore. As an adult, recognizing a need to tell myself the truth all the time made all the difference in the world when it came to happiness and peace amidst the storms in my life. As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m no expert, but over the past fifty years, I’ve survived an inordinate amount of loss and worked as a Social Worker and Grief Recovery Specialist, watching and assisting as others navigate in, out, and through the darkness surrounding them.
Who Defines Truth?
In the Dictionary, truth is defined as that which is in accordance with fact or reality.
Whose facts? Some things–happiness, success, and your self-worth–are allusive. No person or society can tell you the truth about what makes you happy, successful, or gives you self-worth (what they offer are opinions). You can’t trust yourself. We live our lives being fed lies.
About fifteen years ago, I went up to Detroit for training to become a Grief Recovery Specialist. I walked into the classroom and written on a chalkboard was: Tell Yourself the Truth All The Time. You know that moment when your heart starts racing, your palms get sweaty and you look around for a back row seat to hide? <Shiver> Gives me chills remembering that moment because the chairs were in a circle–no back row. No hiding. And truth laughed…gotcha! Those deep dark secrets, that only God knows, were coming out. Ever been turned inside out, scraped clean, and put back together. That’s what grief recovery feels like–a true emotional detox.
What Measuring Stick Do You Use For Truth?
Without an instrument to define truth, we exist in an elusive place where anything goes, and that is a dangerous place to be because it’s where darkness lurks, waiting to pull us in.
At a young age, it sucked me in deeper and deeper until it stole my identity and my self-worth. Blistering lies ran so deep that I still struggle to accept the truth that I’m important and loved. Sometimes, it physically hurts to believe I’m valuable and don’t need the approval of others. I’ll probably struggle with this my entire life, but I KNOW the truth, and that bit of knowledge keeps me from being sucked back into the deception of the darkness.
In my life, in this story, the measuring stick for truth is God and the Bible. It’s what allows me to hold up a hand and block the lies that threaten me everyday–you’re not good enough, successful enough, pretty enough. I choose to allow God’s truth to define who I am. Truth–His truth–allows me to move forward to find happiness, success, and self-worth amidst the war zone we live in.
Who do you allow to determine your self-worth?
Let’s go back to the first paragraph of the story since that’s what this post is about. I commissioned my daughter, Mel A–artist extraordinaire–to draw a graphic to explain the ambiguity. The first picture I’ll call Living In Darkness and the second, Into the Light. This is a depiction of my journey as a young adult, born into an environment in which I had no control, a victim in every sense of the word, suffering consequences that were undeserved, and learning to cope in the only way I knew how.
In the darkness, as a child, my source for all truth came from my parents and other adults. In school, I listened to other students and teachers. In the community, I listened to neighbor kids, bullies, and wretched babysitters. My truth was based on their depiction of me. The Living in Darkness diagram shows a girl looking at her reflection. Infused with her image are these beliefs and ideals the world (made up of good and bad people) taught her. But she doesn’t feel good about her image. See her anguish. There is an illusion happening here. The ornate mirror, big and attractive in it’s appearance, reflects only the truths we’ve learned from the world–that’s worldview–and worldview lies. It’s not our true reflection. It’s not our true image because truth is obstructed.
No one taught me a different way to measure the truth until I was a thirteen, and I went to church for the first time.
I took my mom’s Bible, a little white zippered book with gold tipped pages so thin and crisp, they snapped with a quick turn. I was so proud to have this book that proved I was someone. When the song leader instructed us to open our books to a certain page, I unzip-zip-zipped my little book.
My brother elbowed me. “Stupid. That’s a Bible not a hymnal.” He pointed to the book on the backside of the pew in front of us. Age thirteen, I didn’t know the difference between a Bible and hymnal.
Just like I didn’t know there was a difference between the way I saw myself (my truth) and the way God saw me (His truth). But it was a beginning, an opening that allowed him to pierce the darkness and show me that I am a beautiful, unique creation, hand-made by God with a soul that craves the light.
The second diagram, Into the Light, shows a girl ignoring her reflection and how the world defines her. She looks beyond the glamour of the world (mirror) and opens her mind and heart to the brightness of God’s truth. As the brightness of God’s truth shines upon her … a shadow falls behind. In that shadow is an understanding that what she has experienced in life is an extension of herself, but it doesn’t define her. It’s not her image. As long as she stays in the light, the girl has the ability to discern and control the shadow. If she closes the door, truth is obstructed, lies return.
A Starting Point
I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior at age sixteen. By then, telling the truth was scary and believing the truth almost impossible. But, I understood one thing–to avoid being deceived, I needed to keep my eyes on Jesus. No matter how painful, how uncomfortable, how scary, I needed to keep a hold of His hand.
If you’re scared, feeling alone or unworthy, struggling with addiction or the approval of others, if you’re hiding your pain, isolating from others, look away from the worldview mirror. Open the door, allow His love to shine upon you, and know that you are loved, hand-made by the creator, wanted. The truth is He will never leave you. You are enough–just as you are. In the light of truth, you are free.
- It starts by admitting you are living in the dark. (Romans 3:23)
- Then you invite Jesus to pierce the darkness and join you. You talk to him about the ugliness in your life, and you admit where you messed up and hurt yourself or others. (Rev. 3:20) (1 John 1:9)
- You let him erase the ugliness and try to accept that he really did take it away. (2Co. 5:17)
- Then you hold on to him for dear life because the world will try to slam the door on you. (John 3:20)
After this, there is endless hope. We will experience loss, rejection, and deception. And while the heart-ache and physical pain might feel unbearable, we’ll never be alone and we’ll survive into everlasting life.
That’s the truth!
Thank you for staying with me to the end of this post. Next, I plan to go into more detail about how the important people in our lives (good and bad) are instrumental in shaping how we define truth.