Walking In Darkness – by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

This morning’s post was contributed by Kimberlee Conway. Kimberlee Conway Ireton is the author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year (InterVarsity, 2008).

Walking in Darkness

by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

As Lent approached this year, I found myself in a dark place. This darkness was triggered when I learned I was expectedly pregnant with our third child. It deepened as my pregnancy made me sick. And it became black as night when a dear friend’s seemingly healthy daughter was suddenly diagnosed with leukemia.

I do not like living in darkness. I do not like feeling alone and afraid. I do not like wondering where God is. And I especially do not like the agnosticism that creeps into the darkness with me, whispering its words of skepticism and doubt along my skin and in my heart.

But I have learned that I cannot run from the darkness. I can only walk through it. Walking in the way of Jesus, this Lent, for me, is walking by faith rather than sight, by hope rather than conviction.

I want to believe the good news of the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and on my best days, I do believe it. But I confess there are days, and lately there have been many of them, when I don’t believe this, when I live in fear that it is not true, when I live in fear that God either is not real or else cannot be trusted.

Such fear undermines my very identity, the bedrock of who I usually believe myself to be: a beloved daughter of the God who gives good and perfect gifts. The darkness grows deeper.

But then, words. Words as often as anything else pull me back to the light of faith when I am wandering in the darkness. I was comforted last month to read these words of George MacDonald. He put them in the mouth of one of his characters, an aging pastor who is facing death and wondering if his life has somehow been misspent, if somehow all that he preached and claimed to believe wasn’t really true after all. But then he writes,

    Even if there be no hereafter, I would live my time believing in a grand thing that ought to be true, if it is not….Let me hold by the better than the actual and fall into nothingness off the same precipice with Jesus and John and Paul and a thousand more, who were lovely in their lives, and with their deaths make even the nothingness into which they have passed like the garden of the Lord.

When I read those words, I wept. For they reminded me that I can choose to believe even if I don’t feel that belief.

And so on those days when I don’t quite believe, I look away from myself, my feelings, my fears. I look out and around, noticing small things that are good: cherry blossoms, a hug from my daughter, a box of new-to-me maternity clothes from a friend. I give thanks for these small mercies, choosing to see them as gifts from God even when I don’t believe it. I give thanks that the darkness is not so dark that I cannot make that choice.

On those days when I doubt, I cling all the harder to Jesus, whose way is the way of truth, the truth that sets me free to live and to love in the midst of suffering, the truth that frees me to choose that suffering will render me beautiful rather than bitter and compassionate rather than callous.

On those days when I feel afraid, I cling to His promise that He is with me, that He does not shrink from darkness, that He will never forsake or abandon me.

I choose to trust him.

And eventually, the choosing becomes easier, the darkness lifts, and walking in Jesus’ way is not quite such a struggle…for a while. But the darkness will always return, often unexpectedly. That is why I need Lent, because it bears witness to the reality of darkness, of doubt, of fear, of pain. And it carries me through those real places, real experiences into one that is more fully and truly Real: the Reality of Resurrection, of Light, of Life.

For now, it’s still Lent. I still walk in darkness. But I am beginning to see glimmers of that Light. I am beginning to walk by sight again, with conviction. I give thanks to God for this mercy, too.

6 Responses

  1. What a beautiful post! I, too, clinged to Jesus when my parents died, when my son lay critically ill in the hospital, and when I sat beside my daughter in the hospital when she nearly died. I cling to Him when I feel alone, forgotten, or forsaken. He is the Light and Life of my every day–even days when I feel overwhelmed with sorrow and pain.

  2. […] An opportunity to write a guest post for Christine Sine’s Lenten series on her […]

  3. Oh wow. Kim I feel as though you wrote my own journey from this past year of life. I just gave birth to my third child in October. She was a beautiful surprise but one that rocked my world, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. The journey of starting a faith community shattered in pieces, causing friendships that I had spent several years cultivating to dissipate almost overnight. My husband got word that he would be losing his job and thus began the long process of looking for new employment.

    My life has felt so dark for the past 12 months.

    There have been many moments when God seems to be completely gone. But I believe I would be completely lost without Him.

    It is in the moments of disbelief that I have had to look to the child growing inside my body and see the amazing beauty in that. Or the laughter that my kids erupt with when I take the time to tickle them. Or the beauty of creation surrounding me.

    Thank you for putting words to your story.

  4. […] Go read the whole wonderful Lenten meditation. […]

  5. […] Walking in Darkness by Kimberlee Conway Ireton […]

  6. […] Walking in Darkness – Kimberlee Conway Ireton […]

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