"MOM! Turn the light on! I'm scared!"
Isn't it funny how he had to have known that I was right there, in the room. So was his sister. Nothing had changed except that now he couldn't see us, and he immediately became scared. The darkened room suddenly became a place where danger was hiding, and he (in his own mind, at least) was imminently vulnerable. I flipped the light back on, and problem solved.
Last August, my entire family got together in the mountains for a long weekend. We hadn't all been together for an extended period of time like that, my mom and dad, siblings, in-laws and kids, everybody, since Scott and I were engaged 11 years ago. We'd spent a few hours here and there, but everybody was always too busy, us siblings with our jobs and families, and Mom and Dad with their ministry, to commit any more time than that.
We hadn't really been a family together, in fact, since the summer before my junior year of high school. That was the summer when our family split up, and we forgot how to be. Mom and Dad, Anna and Matt went back to the Solomons. Nathan and I stayed in America. I was 16.
When my folks came back in March, I wasn't ready to see them. The part of me that missed them, that needed them, that wanted them, had been pushed way, way down and locked up tight and shoved into a dusty, cobwebby corner of my soul. The pain of separation had been locked up in there, too. I shouldered a new identity, 'Danica, Responsible Adult', and shed the old, 'Danica, Daughter of David and Pam'. When they came back, I was not about to pull out and dust off the old me. That would mean facing the pain, the separation, the feelings of abandonment in the name of God. It was much easier to bolster up my bravado and allow a crack to widen into a ravine, then a gulf, then a chasm between us.
I went off to college. I got married. I moved to another state. I had kids. All the while, my parents were throwing themselves into their work, and my siblings were living their own lives. We all had perfected the art of packing the pain away in a suitcase and locking it tight. We'd get together, and all of the things left unsaid hovered like malevolent poltergeists, charging the air and sabotaging conversations.
Then, a year and a half ago, my parents came back for an extended furlough. It was really a Sabbatical, justly earned by two people who had given up everything, literally, for the cause of Christ. Mom kept pushing for a family weekend, a time when we would all be under the same roof for several nights. I didn't want to. Extended family time meant that the tenuous hold I had over that dusty old suitcase in my soul would considerably weaken, and I didn't want to face what had been festering there for 15 years. But I went along, we all did, because we love our mom, and we could see this was so important to her.
The last night of the trip, we all sat contented and full from an al fresco dinner, of enchiladas, guacamole, beans, rice, and beer. The sun had long set behind tall mountain firs, and a few of the boldest stars had begun to prick holes through the velvety sky.
"I think we should all go around and say what we love about our family," Mom started in. Bitter, angry, and cynical, I sat with my mouth stubbornly shut as one by one people piped up to share. It wasn't that I didn't agree with what they were saying - I did. But in my eyes, we were once again trying to paint a rosy coat on the pain I knew we were all harboring inside. The junk in the suitcase rumbled, and I gave it a firm mental poke.
When the sharing time was over, we had a time of prayer. Again, I didn't say anything. I couldn't pray to God while pretending everything was OK. He knew and I knew that the suitcase was becoming more insistent, now rocking out from its place in the corner of my soul and demanding attention.
My dad rounded up the prayer with a benediction. He started with Nathan, the oldest, and began prophetically praying blessing over him, his wife, and kids. Then he worked his way down the chain. When he got to me, Dad prayed, "And God, thank you for Danica. Thank you for her honesty and fire, for her boldness, for the way she never shrinks back from the truth ... "
By the time he had finished praying through the entire family, I knew what I had to do. Reaching down into my soul, I flicked the rusty lock and opened my pain. Beginning to speak, stammering, haltering, stumbling over tears, I gave voice to the insecurities, the rejection, all the difficult feelings I was experiencing.
I began, for the first time, to speak the truth to my family. I told them, "Everyone says we're OK. We're not OK." I told them, "I want us to be better." I told them, "It really hurts me when ... "
This opened up a flood of confession, as one by one we spoke our fears into the soft night. We spoke our hearts. We spoke truth. We turned the light on the past and saw it for what it was. We heard each other. We understood each other. We healed. And the gulf, the chasm, the gap between us suddenly shrunk down to a crack.
You see, darkness is scary because it hides our fears. It is the darkness, it is the lies that separate us from true intimacy with one another. It is the darkness, it is the lies that keep us in bondage, unable to even be true to ourselves. By turning the light on, by allowing honesty and truthfulness into our lives and relationships, we experience freedom for ourselves and intimacy with others.
Your relationship with someone can only be as intimate as your ability to be honest with them. Sometimes the other person doesn't want honesty, but truthfulness can still set you free in that relationship. When you allow lies, even little ones like simply omitting the truth, to enter into your interactions with others, you run the risk of denying who you are, which is the very worst bondage to be in.
As Paul exhorts us in the book of Ephesians,
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
... You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:15 - 27)