Remember being a kid and discovering your shadow? This funny, dark thing that at certain times stretched so much bigger than you, but you could make it move and dance and mock your every movement? I remember spending hours playing with my shadow.
But I'm 27 years old these days, and my shadows aren't so cute any more.
It's not that there's anything particularly bad or wicked in me. Nothing deep, dark, and mysterious that I'm hiding. No dirty secrets that are going to make headlines. It's just that there are a lot of things in me, areas of woundedness mostly or stories from the past I haven't quite resolved or certain ways that once upon a time, I had to live but I find no longer necessary, that like to creep back up more often than I'd be ok with and try to drag me back down into the abyss from which they've come.
I'm kind of a work in progress. And most of the time, I'm ok with that.
It's just that I keep looking down and seeing these shadows. Following me everywhere. Mocking my every move. Seeming so much bigger than me, so much bigger than maybe I could ever be.
This is the kind of thing that in my not-too-distant past might have quickly defeated me. Some days, it still almost does. Because let's face it: if these were anything to be proud of, they would be milestones or monuments. Not shadows. They wouldn't be hiding underneath me; I would be standing on top of them.
Sigh. Such is life. These are my shadows.
A few months ago, things were going well. I mean, really well. I'm kind of getting back into the same sort of spot again. Things are looking up; life is looking good; there's promise in my heart and hope in my tomorrow, with a lot of grace in my today. I get it. And because of this seemingly simple realization, I've got to tell you:
I'm ready to do a little shadowboxing.
More ready than at any other point in my life, maybe. More ready to take on the things that, when I've taken on other things, I've allowed to keep lurking because they just seemed so big. They still seem big, but it's all about perspective. One simple perspective...the truth about shadows.
Shadows...are proportional only to your position in relation to the light. Your shadow always seems bigger in the morning and the evening, when the sun is lowest on the horizon. Around midday, your shadow disappears because with the light noon-high, there's nowhere for darkness to play.
The same is true for the shadows in my life, and in yours. They'll never seem bigger than when the Son is starting to rise. When we're starting to make a move with God, when we're starting to let Him rise to His place in us, that's when our darkness stretches the greatest. That's why these shadows are dangerous - because they're so big precisely when we'd be fooled into thinking they would have to go away. When we start to think we're past that, we're better than that, we're beyond that. When God is starting to take hold in our lives and our darkness shouldn't matter. But there it is, mocking our every move. And it looks so big. And it looks just like us.
It's a painful place, watching darkness extend from our very feet, so much a part of us and yet, we long to shake it. We're looking at the light in our lives and wondering how that can even be with such darkness still emerging from us, with our shadows playing at our feet.
Don't worry. The two aren't mutually exclusive. The more you give your heart to God, the more you bring His light into your life, the more that darkness stretches so large. But not forever. Once He rises noon-high and your life is centered under Him, there's not going to be anywhere for your darkness to play with you.
In the meantime, God tells us to take a page from the playground and learn to engage even our darkness. These shadows are something. They are a part of our story and a part of what God is going to do through us...as soon as we've let Him do it in us. If we can push past the pain just long enough to engage our darkness, our shadows...we find that we can still make them dance.
Then they're not playing with us so much as we're playing with them, playing them right into the hands of God. Playing them into purpose.