I wasn’t the only one.
My first semester of freshman year was difficult. In my mind, the most analogous illustration I can conjure is simple and frightening: darkness. There was no hope as would have accompanied being in the depths of the ocean…no dream of a current to lift me up and wash me ashore. It was just pure darkness with the illusion of peace, and the disbelief that any condition contrary to mine had a form or existence. Or, in other terms, “light:” There was none.
But something happened in December. I can describe it only as the emergence of that which I had known to be false, as sure as we know that we are not made of cats and dogs. Abba peered into my disbelief, reached into my darkness, and saved me. He taught me not to hate Him, not to believe that He desired only my sorrow and grief – which is what I had foolishly claimed to be my own truth. He taught me of love, of light, of liberation. And by January, with one leap into His outstretched hands on an ocean of faith, I walked. I walked, and my darkness became light.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)
And so began the initiation of my new, fragile existence. I no longer trusted in myself to bring joy to a dreary day, for each moment of happiness was a treasure, a deliciously miraculous moment that I knew I had no power to conjure of my own accord; first semester had taught me that. I was weak. But second semester taught me that He was strong.
He reintroduced me to joy, and joy in its fullness. Joy: I wasn’t happy because I had no fear or pain. Instead, I enjoyed a peace that passed all understanding despite my consistent fears. Despite my worries. And the “despite” is what, to me, made the smiles of second semester joy, and the grins of its predecessor mere fleeting whims.
But, as I first told you, I was not alone. In that darkness, when the less-than-glamorous thoughts of death and destruction seemed to beckon me with chilling invitation, I was surrounded by bodies who endured the same tormenting voices of “You’re not good enough,” “You are alone,” “No one loves you,” “You cannot be loved,” “You. Are. Alone.”
Her name is Martha, and she is my new friend. She is gloriously beautiful and has a laugh that is as infectious as her charm. She, to me, is a radiation of light and beauty. She is the inner spirit that mean and women alike envy to possess.
And somewhere across campus in that first year of college, she was experiencing the same things I was. I learned this as we discussed our lives in a dormitory kitchen while the rest of the world cheered on the Seahawks and Broncos. She was vulnerable there, and revealed the same wound that I’d born. “Here’s my scar,” it was as if she was saying. As if she rolled down her sleeve to reveal a heart that had been slashed in half and had somehow healed. It matched mine.
We were not alone, either, for at that same kitchen table, our friend Anna revealed an equal distress. What is it about ripping away company that seems to suck the life out of people, knocking them to the ground and revealing the idols they’d held so dearly for so long? Relationships. The worst idols to those whom they affect, for they can be both a necessity and a handicap; a delirious gift and a wretched knife.
With piercing blue eyes and the dancing grace of the passing wind, Anna is a symbol of strength. In my mind, she is power and a fortress that is not to be overtaken. She is the confidence for which young women strive, and the ginger sensitivity that constitutes love and emotion. But somehow, the darkness had gotten her, too.
And somehow, we’d all been rescued in the same way: by His timely answers to our prayers.
I wish I could have shaken myself unconscious until I rejected the concept that I was the only one. I wish that my eyes had been opened in that first semester, and I’d seen the other sisters standing blankly next to me in the soul-gripping dark, their limbs frozen in shock and fear and wonder. I wish that the “Whys? Whys?” – the molecules that clustered together into a black nothingness – had been torn and sin had been broken and truth had been restored amidst the hopelessness that was The Dark.
I wish no one would ever have to feel fear in its tangible form.
There is no beauty in sorrow and, at the time, no thanks in the upheaving. But today, I am thankful for the conversation in the dormitory kitchen that revealed one everlasting truth:
He never leaves us, nor does He forsake us.