This weekend I was given both a kind of "dark night of the soul" experience and the light that came as a result. On Saturday night I went to hear my oldest son perform with his college jazz band. The venue was a small, dark, intimate jazz supper club. I was a bit nervous about it because, as a single person, I thought I would be highly aware of my "aloneness"--especially with Christopher's dad, his wife, and their friends eating together at a table not far away.
The music was wonderful, filling, lifting, energizing. I loved every minute of it. And yet I was acutely aware of the empty seats at my table, heightened by the fact that everyone else (as far as I had the courage to look) seemed to have others sitting with them--family members, friends, lovers, spouses.
I sat alone. At the break, Christopher and his girlfriend came and sat at the table and we talked a bit. Then they returned to the stage.
On the way home, I talked to my daughter on the phone. I told her how great the music had been. She asked, "Was it okay, going by yourself?" "It wasn't bad," I said.
But I came home to what felt like an empty house (although in reality I had my dogs, cats, and turtle to welcome me). And I looked at my beautiful Christmas tree and the lights spiraling up the stairs. And my heart ached as loneliness washed over me. I sat down and cried.
Yesterday my daughter and I scurried out in the early morning to try to get one of the late-release Wiis we'd heard a rumor about (we didn't get one, but we got close enough to see the people who got one!). Then in the afternoon I braved the mall and had a wonderful time finishing up my Christmas shopping. I cared for my grandbaby in the evening while her mama and papa went to a company Christmas party. And both boys were home--Christopher came home for Christmas break from college--and they were upstairs hooting and hollering as they played Xbox 360 games.
I put on the soundtrack to the movie Elf and made Christmas cookies. I was happy. I was singing in the kitchen as I figured out the new cookie press. Life was good again.
It occurred to me late last night that when I was feeling such a riping pain about being alone, I wasn't focused on what's real in my life. I was looking in the shadows for what I didn't have rather than opening my eyes in the light to see the very real blessings all around me. For that dark night in that dark jazz club, I allowed myself to believe in Lack. And you know what? It hurts!
It strikes me that I was reliving the moment in the Garden of Eden, when Eve believed the serpent when he told her she was missing something. Eat this, he said, and you'll have the knowledge God has. Eve thought there was something being withheld from her. She believed it was possible that there was something she lacked. And so she reached out, took a bite, and sought to fix the problem herself.
Not only did that solidify her belief in the possibility that she lacked something; she passed that belief along to Adam. And their own focus on lack caused them to hold back from God when he came for his daily happy stroll in the garden. They hid; they withdrew; they created the illusion of lack in their relationship with God.
If Eve had been completely happy with things as they were in the garden--if she's truly appreciated everything God had given her (and trusted God to reveal anything else needed at just the right time)--that story might have had a different ending.
For my part, this morning I'm very aware of the abundance around me. Life is good. I have companionship, and comfort, and peace, and joy. All along, all I needed were the eyes to see it, the ears to hear it, and the heart willing to fully, abundantly, receive.
Merry Christmas to you and yours--and may the grace and joy of God enfold everyone in the world in an embrace of peace.