I’m a runner, a very good runner. Not an athletic runner. No, no, no. I can hardly run up a flight of stairs without feeling like I need pay a visit to the ER. I run away from people. I run away from situations. I run away from responsibility. And I’ve gotten darn good at it.
I used to run all the time. I was heartbroken, depressed, and terribly shy. So I would run away and go into dark places where life couldn’t find me. I would run from one place to the next in order to ignore my situation as much as I could and avoid conversations that I didn’t want to have. I found a way to align myself with the clock so perfectly so that I could go about my life as undetected as possible. But in order to leave one place and arrive at another at such specific times, I was always left with awkward gaps of time in between. I didn’t have anywhere to go, or anything to do, so I would just drive. I drove up and down quiet side streets, explored dead-end roads, drove out to the country side. There was one long country road that became a favorite of mine. It was an escape from my heartache. But the darkness that I was running from was only continued on the unpredictable twists and turns of the road. Every single time I drove there, it was pitch black outside. I quickly became familiar with its dark winding shadows. The shady silhouettes along the road became my own secret stopwatch, telling me exactly when it was safe to return to reality. The darkness, which was completely uninterrupted aside from my headlights, made me feel a little less lonely.
As both my situation and my heart changed, my secret escape route became less and less of a necessity. I started spending less time on that road; sometimes I even returned to life a little earlier than required. Eventually, I stopped going all together. I never had any reason to drive there anymore, so it remained a faint memory for over a year. But the other day, I went for a drive with my big brother and he (with that internal GPS fueled solely by testosterone) insisted that the back roads were the quickest way to reach our destination. The second I pulled onto the road I felt the familiar rush of anxiety overwhelm me. But as I looked around, the anxiety left almost as quickly as it came. The shadows that once lurked over me as I hid from the world were gorgeous trees sparkling in the sunlight. The pitch black voids that accompanied my lonely darkness were rolling hills covered in wild flowers. The intersecting dirt road that once told me I had eight minutes of solitude left led to a beautiful farm with shining fields. There was so much life hiding in the shadows, but I had no idea. In my darkness, there was endless beauty just waiting for morning’s light.
Others were able to enjoy the beauty of the place I was in, but because of the time I was in it, I could only experience the darkness. But that didn’t change the fact that the beauty was there; it only made it difficult for me to see.
Everything up to this point was written over a year ago. I never finished it because I felt it was missing something. Now I see exactly what that was.
I was at a very optimistic point in life. I can practically see myself frolicking through those fields and singing “THE HIIIIIILLS ARE ALIVEEEE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC!” Everything was going great. My relationship with God was growing rapidly, broken friendships were healing, new friends were being made. It felt like God and I were finally on the same page. He brought me to Point A so that I could get to Point B and understand Point C. Everything made so much sense.
But there’s one little detail I never took into account for my little metaphor: every time the sun rises, it also sets. It was so easy to be happy and optimistic when the sun was shining on the beauty I had waited so long to experience. But the sun set, and it set hard. I was left alone in that darkness again, and this time, knowing what sunshine was like, the darkness felt even lonelier. And once again, it left me wondering why I had to go through the darkness in the first place. If it wasn’t for the sunshine… WHY?!
I have a little saying that I wrote in my journal about two years ago. It’s become a bit of a personal motto for me.
“See Christ. Be Christ.”
I try my best to be optimistic, but sometimes, finding the silver lining is impossible. When my perfect picture of rolling hills and shimmering leaves proved to be extremely temporary, I realized… that’s not what God calls us to do. We’re not always meant to find the good in terrible situations. Because let’s be honest, some situations are just purely terrible. Children get cancer. Friends die. Families fall apart. There’s nothing good about those things, and we aren’t meant to spend all of our energy telling ourselves and everyone around us that everything is going to be alright.
God doesn’t hide little bits of goodness in a massive pile of manure and tell us to “go fetch.” He doesn’t tell us to wait by ourselves on a dark country road until the sun rises and reveals all of His marvelous gifts. He goes through the crap with us. He walks with us in our darkness. He reminds us of the beauty He has shown to us in the past, and He is there every step of the way guiding us through the darkness. In Matthew 28:20 He says “be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Even when we can’t see Him. Even when everything is going wrong. Christ is still there. We only need to choose to believe that He is there in the midst of the darkness.
However when we can’t see Him, we need to be Him. In Ephesians 5:1-2a, we are called to “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.” When life gets hard, imitate Christ. When people disappoint you and hurt you, choose to see the beauty that Christ sees, choose to love them, choose to forgive them. When you lose loved ones, choose to bring Christ’s peace into the lives of those who share your grief. When you see injustice, bring Christ’s truth and love to those who are persecuted. When you’re all alone on a dark country road, know that there is beauty waiting beyond the shadows. Keep that hope in your heart. But while you’re waiting, seek Him, and you will find Him.
See Christ. Be Christ. Even when it’s dark.