Two years to live they told him. His heart hit the floor and the water burst through his eyes, as he thought of his life ending so suddenly. His wife and two sons left without a dad. All his prolonged plans now suddenly made urgent by the gravity of his impending death. A wave of pity washed over him and all he could see was darkness. He could not understand how the most freeing time of his life—his retirement could be derailed by this crippling news. As he tried to catch his breath, he could not help wondering what would happen to his wife and kids. How would they fare without him? How could he muster the courage to live without being bitter that life had dealt him a bad hand? With the sea of darkness closing in on him, he felt himself sinking further and further into the deep, for a moment he was angry enough to allow death to drown out the life he had left.
When we are knee deep in trouble, it can be difficult to see a way out. The intensity of the trouble feels like quicksand under our feet—the more we try to move the deeper we sink. We are tempted to throw in the towel and let the dark period take us over. We can find solace however if we remember that only the dark can give an invitation to the sun. The coldness of the winter triggers the spring. The painful labor of a woman turns to jubilee when the child is delivered. Trouble is like a puff of smoke—obnoxious, overpowering, and vexatious but then it fades.
Life is full of seasons. When we anchor ourselves in that truth, that what is here is fleeting, we can bath ourselves in the moments of life. Our awareness to the brevity of life makes us more grateful. Each moment that we get is a gift. Yet many live as though they are invincible and think that trouble will never come knocking at their door. For some of us, we need a tragedy to strike before we heed the value of life. Why must we allow tragedy the pleasure of teaching us to spend time with our loved ones? The moments we get, we must savor and sop it all up. While trouble is only with us for a season, we can choose now to live our best lives without waiting for it to tell us to be kind to others. We have the power to choose now.
Life for many in this moment feels like an endless blackhole. From a virus that has ravished our land to a toxic political climate, social injustices and disparities, and problems on every side. Given the heated times we are living in, it is difficult to escape the flames without being scarred. But trouble won’t last always. In the darkest of nights, there are billows of clouds surrounding us—letting us know that the darkness cannot overtake us unless we allow it. Even a seed cannot escape the darkness, for it is the soil that helps the seed become a mighty tree. The darkness, the trouble, the problem is here to aid us, to empower us, to make us better. Even Martin Luther King, Jr. who lived in one of the darkest times in America, declared that “only in the darkness can we see the stars.” Without the dark times how can we become our best selves?
Two years to live they told my teacher. For a moment he was tempted to be bitter with life and to fade into the darkness. But as he remembered his family, he saw a tiny glimmer of hope—a star that would guide him back to life. His mind flashed back to his departed mother. He recalled her battle with breast cancer. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in her thirties which required her to remove one of her breasts. The cancer reemerged in her old age. The doctor told her that he would have to remove her other breast and astoundingly, she simply said, “take it, I don’t need it anyway!” My teacher could not believe the audaciousness of his mother, as he looked at her they broke out in laughter. His reflection on his now deceased mother gave him the charge he needed. He remembered the lessons his parents taught him and how they handled arduous times but kept fighting. In that moment he realized that only the darkness paves the way for the morning. Reluctantly, with frustration and fear he decided to live—for his family, for his community, and for himself. What about you, how are you faring during these dark times?