I was suffering from the dreaded disease known to all writers/creatives as “Distractinterwebitis” (manifests in an insatiable addiction to: Pinterest, Twitter or GameCast on ESPN) last night when I stumbled upon something useful. Not to say that the Internet is full of un-useful things. However, when one is attempting to work on discipline in writing, one should probably just uninstall all web browsers, disable the Wi-Fi and only be allowed to use the Internet at the library.
Anyway, I found was a quote by one of my favorite writers, J.R.R. Tolkien. It is as follows:
“You can only come to the morning through the shadows.”
At first, I took it simply as a lovely thought and moved on. But something stopped me. So I meditated on it a bit longer. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the difficulty and complex beauty of this truth.
Shadows are complex things. (If you’re a Doctor Who fan, two of them are downright terrifying.) Our fears tend to lurk in shadows. They represent the terrifying and at times, the exciting. They can also bring relief. But in the sense of the quote above, I think most times, they epitomize the unknown. They give character to difficulty. They can signify suffering.
The shadows in my life have been many. A broken engagement at twenty. Being bullied in school as a from kindergarten to junior high. Devastating pain for years. The death of many friends, most too young to be gone. My own stupidity. Letting down the people I love or visa-versa. In each of those situations, the shadows lead to darkness. I stumbled through, eyes blind and hands waving wildly in front of me, silently begging for guidance. I fell, became bruised and at times very broken. The shadows brought agony in the “right now” and reshaped intrinsic parts of me. Many times my blindness prevented me from seeing them as protection from something far worse. In the strangest of ways, the shadows often became the morning.
Still, it’s taken years to see morning in some situations. In others, mere hours. But there has always been a morning to my shadows. The promise of morning can often make it a little easier to muscle through. After the shadows have scattered, there is nothing better than the brilliance of morning. I love the breaking of light that sends the darkness fleeing. The warmth of the sun is like a blanket, all comfort and rest. The bright light to guide my way brings relief.
As I wrote last night, I was curious what others had said about shadows. I read many quotes, but my favorite, aside from the Tolkien quote, was:
I was also curious what Scripture had to say. There are several verses, and their meaning bounces from death and fear, to protection and the goodness of God. Still, I focused on this one:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 (ESV)
Shelter and shadow. Darkness and the morning. These things give me comfort that life is worth giving my utmost, despite the pain that brings. For it seems the most beautiful things are born in the shadows.
How do you deal with shadows in your life? What lessons have you learned in the shadows? I’d love to hear your story.