It is quite the phenomenon to see shadows while completely in the dark, but that is what happened to me the other night. Okay I confess... I didn't "see" them with my eyes but they were nonetheless all too real.
As I settled in trying to sleep while looking forward to the next day of Sunday services with my family, memories of the past found their way to my thoughts and dreams. The timing was the worst as it always is, when painful memories of the past cast a shadow over the beauty of life in the present. Those shadows have a way of looming over us when we least expect it and when we think they are gone forever.
The first sign of those shadows began to hover while I was still awake. Someone who had hurt me deeply crept into my thoughts as I was winding down for the evening. At first, those thoughts were just reminders of freedom from a time when I was in bondage to cruelty by someone whom I had chosen to trust with complete abandon. After entertaining those thoughts for a bit, I dismissed them and thanked God that I was free from that relationship. It had now been seven years since I broke away from that entanglement. As I recalled those painful moments, I embraced an even more fierce determination to be a voice of triumph for those who have suffered hurt and abuse of any kind by these predators of the heart, soul, mind and body.
I closed my eyes and fitfully drifted off to sleep. It was then, in the darkness of slumber, that those shadows appeared again. I understand that shadows can only be seen in the light, so it must be puzzling how they revealed themselves in my sleep. You see, I had exposed them for what they were during my last waking moments. I turned my thoughts from what they looked like to what they truly were - just memories of a time gone by - a time I had survived! Funny how shadows take full advantage of the light though. If the light is low, the shadows grow. If the light is high in the sky, the shadows diminish in size. Also, if you walk towards the light, the shadows stay behind you. If the light moves, so do the shadows. The light that had revealed them for what they were, continued to shine in my dreams. It was there, they decided to do their "dance" when I was not awake to control which way I was headed. I re-lived belittling words, veiled threats and even physical altercations. I experienced loss of things precious all over again. I woke with my heart pounding and my mind and emotions exhausted. It was only a few hours before I had to get up and get dressed to meet my family at our morning church service. I was beyond ready for the full light of day.
Do the shadows of your memories ever haunt your thoughts and rob your peace? I know that it is said that "time heals all wounds" but the truth is, wounds become scars that are visible reminders of the pain. What I love about scars though is they no longer hurt! They may be a bit unsightly, but they do not hurt! It is the same way with shadows. They may show up as we walk in the light, but they cannot hurt us! They are simply a distorted image of who we are and where we where as we continue on to where we are headed. I don't want to in any way diminish what we all feel when those shadows of the past creep into the rooms of our thoughts and emotions of the heart. They can produce a perceived moment of fear, but the key words is "perceived." They only cause us pain when we embrace them - kind of like scars can only hurt if we rip them open again to create fresh wounds.
Keep walking in the light! Even more, keep walking towards the light. As Walt Whitman famously stated, "Keep your face always towards the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you." The only way for them to appear larger and closer is if we turn from the light or diminish the light. For me, the light has been a family who patiently stood by me during the worst times of my life - even putting themselves in danger to defend me. Shadows have been dispelled when my own son's light (no pun intended) of love showed honor and respect for me even when fear caused me to behave in ways I would've never behaved. The light of an unexpected "hero" shined deep in my heart to show beauty where the ugly shadows of abuse had clouded my vision of who I truly was. This man - my best friend, my "smile-maker" saw beauty in me when I could not see it in myself. He stepped in at the most crucial time of my life when I was needing the courage to fully break free from the bondage of abuse and fear. Sometimes those lights of my life allowed me to be a reflection of light and love - much like the moon is of the sun diminishing the shadows of the past.
I suppose our lives are never free from shadows no matter what, but we can be free from the fear they bring. When the shadows of the night try to overtake you, turn on the light - say a prayer for peace, comfort and healing. Offer praise and gratitude for the freedom you now experience apart from the chains that once held you in those hurtful relationships. Reach out to those whose love illuminates the dark corners of your heart. Tell them you love them, tell them how grateful you are for them and allow your light to grow and warm their hearts during their moments of hurt, pain and fear.
If, by chance, your shadows are reminders of separation from someone you love rather than freedom from a time of hurt and pain, you can still dissipate the cloud such shadows wrap you in. Allow the light of your loved one's memory recount the joys you experienced, the laughter, the extraordinarily every day moments and remember then with gratitude for the time shared.
Together we can dispel the darkness and drive out the shadows of the past.