My practice of finding the light phase is over. Instead, it is now time to commit to the light. I choose to bask in the illumination light offers and radiate its glow. This difficult and vulnerable commitment requires truth and an uncovering of the darkness that lives inside of me. This commitment forces a purge of pain that some people are not comfortable hearing.
And just like most hard stuff, when we shed our darkness, we feel a bit of euphoria. But, as readily as euphoria arrives, it also quickly dissipates. Sometimes truth telling leads to pain. Sometimes truth telling is met with fear and burden. I understand these emotions, these fears, and these burdens of truth. Empathy challenges us. We don’t always get it right the first time. I know this because I don’t always dive into the empathetic and healing waters right away, either. When I feel wronged or hurt or burdened, I, also, can turn to fear, judgement, self-preservation, and cruelty. Empathy isn’t always the first response to pain and that is okay. Empathy is learned and practiced, too. Just like light. But, the tricky thing about light is that it covers darkness. Light needs darkness to truly shine. A sun soaked day is wonderful, but a dark evening with a glowing moon, well that’s just magical.
Last night, as we packed up a few drinks, grabbed IPads and IPhones, and headed out the door to watch the Lunar Eclipse, I paused to reflect and comment on some of the pain I felt over the last few days. The pain that rose to new heights and needed to be released in order to fully commit to the light. I turned to my friend and said, “I think I am kooky and weird. I believe in these words like love, reconciliation, redemption, hope, forgiveness, grace, and love. I really believe these words exist as actions. I really believe these words are possible to experience and live and practice. I believe in their possibility.”
My friend gently replied, “Yes. You are weird and you are kooky. I knew this when we met over twenty years ago. You do believe in those words. You do think they are possible. This is why I love you, though. This is why I stand next to you on dark nights and watch the moon. You forgive and you love. You offer grace. You are weird and kooky and that’s not only okay, it’s pretty great.”
We gathered in the middle of the road; a few neighbors and friends huddled together to watch the moon’s glow on a black and dark night. As we sat and waited, I sent another friend, Kelly, a text message and asked if she could see the moon. She replied with a text message that read, “I can’t see it from my deck or my front porch, but if I stand in the middle of the yard, like a weirdo, I can see the moon.”
Right away, as I read her words, I knew we all weren’t just waiting for the moon last night. We all weren’t just standing in the middle of the road and our yards just to watch the moon. We were ALL standing together, as a bunch of weirdos, waiting for the light to take over the dark.
Our band of weirdos included saints and sinners. And addicts and recovering addicts. And the abused and the abusers. The fallen and the recovered. The liars and the truth tellers. The loved and the lost. The dreamers and the hopers. No one judged anyone, we all just stood together, looking up at the magical light, in the middle of the road, like weirdos.
I guess it’s weird to believe love and forgiveness and grace really do exist. Historically, some of the world’s greatest weirdos, like Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr., believed the antidote for hate was love. I guess it’s weird to think reconciliation is possible with all of the swirling pain, hurt, and fear that exists. I guess it's weird to think, with love, we can heal anger and prejudice. I do not believe we can’t wax poetic about our sick and hurting world without first being brave, or weird, enough to practice a little compassion and empathy and redemption. And I do believe we must practice these things in our own front yards, in our own neighborhoods, in our own homes, and in our own lives. If, as individuals, we don’t commit to these crazy words, nothing in this world will ever heal. Wounds will continue to bleed. Burden will continue to win and perpetuate the myth that we are alone in our darkness. Peace and light begin with us, as individuals. And if that’s weird, well okay then. If grace is risky and kooky, then okay - I will gladly stand in the middle of the road with the other weirdos.
We can’t judge pain. A lack of empathy comes from our own pain. Hurt people hurt. Grace and forgiveness and hope and love are really, really hard. They take someone kooky enough to fight for them and preach them to the masses.
When we shed our darkness; when tell the truth and uncover our secrets, we are free to be weird. You can’t fake forgiveness and you certainly can’t fake grace. God’s favor shines on all of us, not just the successful and perfectly put together armored humans. We shine and strengthen this armor to prevent hurt and imperfection. These lofty words are lived through practice and determination and a stripping of that armor. We must choose to allow them to shine above, through our own darkness, through our own chinks in our shiny and glistening armor. Because when we offer these gifts to others, when we take off our masks, we are rewarded in ways that are hard to grasp and measure in practical terms. We become the light workers and the weirdos, not because we are wrong and confused and tormented, but because we are brave enough to stand in the middle of the road and wait for the light.
Once again, I fail to practice empathy on many occasions. I sit with the hurt and pain and, only later, do I see my role, my part, my job in its healing. The craziest part of this whole offering forgiveness thing is I learned how to offer this this gift to others because it was once and continues to be offered to me. I only know how to be the forgiver because I am forgiven. The change begins with us, as individuals. We are the change. We are the weirdos who choose to believe in a better world. We don’t fear redemption. Instead of a burden, we see others' confessions of pain and hurt and darkness as a privilege.