Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matt 5:4
Darkness of soul is a familiar feeling for me. As my story would have it, the deep feeling of having burdens piled upon my shoulders so heavy that I doubted my ability to keep taking steps forward was familiar to me in different seasons.
Then, daily tasks of feeding, giving, loving and meeting the needs of my whole family would come over and over again, relentlessly. Long nights of hospital machines that helped my children to breathe enough to go to sleep again after hours of gasping filled years of my life. Moving again and settling into a new home meant extending myself over and over again, after learning that most people would not reach out to our own family. We needed to be the initiators, again.
God has given me an idealistic heart, though, and somehow I had this inner bubbling up of delight, a desire to overcome, and so I sought for answers to memorize deep in my soul, that would show me a "light" way forward amidst the darkness that sometimes prevailed.
In the midst of the busy-ness and hard realities of life, it's easy to become burdened, living under a cloud of depression at times. Yet, the one cry of my heart, since teen years was,
"If someone really knew the living God, who created stars and music and romance and epic stories to be lived, wouldn't their lives be different for knowing Him."
Surely, God wants more for us than that we make it to heaven exhausted and threadbare, hardly able to take one more step.
I wanted to be that person, that when people came to my soul, they would find the God who drew me above my circumstances into a realm of His reality and joy. Many years ago as I pondered what would enable me to live the Christian life with true joy, a memory surfaced of a time I'd attended a very fancy ball with my parents.
As a wide-eyed 6 year old little girl, when my parents had no babysitter, I was taken with them to an evening dinner dance, so that they could still enjoy their special night out with friends. Bedecked in shiny patent leather shoes, lace socks and my frilliest little girl dress, my mama let me wear a touch of her lipstick and a tiny bit of pink rouge.
I still remember sitting wistfully at a fancy table, big-eyed and dreamy, admiring all the twirling dancers when...
"Suddenly, my handsome, 6'3"smiling father strolled over. In one easy, graceful movement, he swept me off my feet and up into his arms. With a tone and look of noble seriousness, he said, "May I have a dance with the princess of the ball?"
"Yes," I said with my little girl smile."
The next thing I knew we were on the dance floor. My feet hung limply down, swinging as he swayed. He held me tightly in his strong arms and easily twirled me 'round and 'round the dance floor. As we danced cheek to cheek, I breathed in the familiar scent of the Old Spice aftershave he had lightly rubbed on his smooth-shaven face earlier that evening. (That spicy aroma still brings back memories of him.)
The tingling excitement and pride that I felt at that giddy but very rare moment, being in the arms of my hero, left me almost breathless. I treasured each second with great delight and took in all the smiles and admiration of the other doting adults. For the several minutes we were on the dance floor, I was caught up in something so special I didn't want it to end. I do not have lots of personal memories with my father, but I remember his arms holding me and carrying me in the dance of the night.
But then the song wound to a close, and the music came to an abrupt stop. Our dance was over. With his long, smooth strides, my father glided back to our dinner table with me still in his arms and set me lightly upon my chair.
"Thank you for the pleasure of your company, sweet princess," he said affectionately and bowed. Then he turned away to find my mother.
The memory of dancing with my father provided a picture of what God desires for us to share. He gave me a personal, visual image of what he wanted me to understand about his joy: that it is wrapped up in him as my heavenly Father, that he is the Initiator, the Provider, the Lover, the Strong One. In short, he is to be my leading man in the dance of life. He is the one who will teach me the steps and the ways to hear His music amidst my daily life.
My father was a hard working man and spent long days in his office and this memory was rare--the only time I remember this kind of time with him. And maybe I even recreated the memory of him calling me "princess."
Many of us do not have images of fathers who were personal or attentive, but this memory was a picture that God brought to my mind when I was pondering wanting to have a different sort of life--one in which there was the "more" that my creator had whispered about inside my heart, that my longings were based on something he had created me to experience.
But even more, dancing seemed to be a visual picture of what God wants me to do in my soul: he wants me to dance inside my heart, no matter what is going on outside in my circumstances. To dance is to celebrate life, to make merry, to physically live out the reality of internal joy and to walk so much in His presence that His light shines through the dark days.
Psalm 139: 12 is such an anchor to me through many years and seasons of dark times:
"Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You."
He is not influenced by darkness, He is light himself. He will give me hope and fill my darkness with his light, if I will go to Him, rest in Him, leave my circumstances to His wisdom, and learn to live into the joy of His loving care.
I learned this inner worship, this claiming of His reality by faith through so many days.
"This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118: 24
.It is why I named my first blog, I take Joy, because I have learned that beyond our circumstances, our burdens, our life in a fallen world, He, the creator of life, beauty, love, gentleness is here and He wants us to know His reality.
Those who walk closely with the Lord do have a secret inner joy, a dancing energy just from knowing Him. It is in having him as my partner, in letting him take the lead, that I will be directed around the "dance floor" of my life.
He is the One who will show me the steps, teach me to hear the music, how to engage my heart with him and to stay in sync with him, the real Source of the music, the dance, and the everlasting joy." (parts of this article come from Dancing With My Father, which you can find here!)
God is with you today, in dark times and in light times. And He loves you all the time. He is your ever-committed Father and He will teach you, and me, the ways to let Him lead us in our own unique dances of life.