Recently I began reading a book on humility. It has been a startling reminder to me of how often we as human beings try to make ourselves out to be better than we really are, of how we try to cover up our shortcomings and refuse to readily acknowledge our failures. Our lack of humility makes us dishonest with ourselves, with others, and most importantly, with God. I have been guilty of this more than once and believe the words of John Calvin to be true when he said, "It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself." People cannot behold themselves, and live a truly honest and transparent life, if they do not possess the humility to embrace their own failures.
Not that long ago, a friend of mine was really struggling and seemed to think that no one else shared his past. I felt led to respond to his searchings and wrote him a letter. In that letter, I detailed some things about my past that he was surprised to learn and, later, I realized that it is possible for many people to think that I live a super spiritual life and that I have it all together. Its easy for them to read my posts and get the impression that I have a perfect relationship with God and that I never struggle the way they do. Well, I want to address that and emphasize my ever-present need for the Savior I know and love.
As most of us do, I have had a shadow side - that part of my story that I am not proud of and still find it hard to talk about. I've endured some painful bullying at the hands of a couple of girls I grew up with; I've sat in hospital rooms for weeks, wondering if my father would live and our lives would get back to normal again; I've cried tears of grief as I read the headline in the newspaper, announcing that a friend of mine had been killed in Iraq while serving with the Marines; I've suffered the harsh loss of letting go of my grandmother as cancer took her life; most recently, I watched my friend Katie bravely battle cancer and ultimately slip into the arms of her Lord at the tender age of 18. I've had my share of dark days. I remember well the feeling of desperation and the constant shadows of carrying around a sense of inner darkness and depression. I have tasted adversity, and I know it well.
But I also have come to know another side - a light side. In this, I have discovered the meaning of hope and purpose, of placing faith in the hands of the Savior and allowing Him to rebuild my broken life. In my light side, I have come to know the grace and love of God as I have watched Him bring redemption and resurrection to what once was dead within. My shadow side allowed me to experience and appreciate the Light - that part of me that can notice and be grateful for every blessing, every breath, every gift from above.
Through this blog, I talk about both sides because I know that I'm not the only one who has journeyed this path. Others walk this way as well. Some of them are still dealing with the darkness and they are in need of hope. They seek the Light that so graciously appeared to me. The reason I write isn't to put myself on a pedestal and show others how wonderfully spiritual I am. The reason I write is because I need the Light too! I need a Savior to rescue, guide, care for, redeem, and restore me. What I say here is as much aimed at my own need and for my own benefit as it is, hopefully, for others'. Even though I have long since stepped from a life of constant darkness into a life lived in the Light, I still struggle with my "golden girl" side: that part of me that wants to be somebody, that wants to take credit for her own achievements in life, that desires others' validation and acceptance when the only acceptance that really matters is God's. My "prodigal side" is the person I know I truly am: the one that has been chosen and redeemed by Christ and is continuing to be transformed into the individual I was created to be. The one that is fully aware of her weaknesses and yet believes in God's ability to perfect them. The one that knows she is not who she wants to be and yet is thankful she is better than she used to be, thanks to the grace of the One who loves her.
I know that I will never be entirely free from my shadow side until I arrive in Heaven someday and my light side is all that there is. But I am grateful that they both remind me to keep myself grounded in who I really am and to appreciate who God has changed me into becoming, an ordinary person who has been mercifully loved by an extraordinary God. And that, my friends, makes all the difference.