In the Dark

~~I know that I’ve mentioned that I volunteer at the local Children’s Shelter – this will be my fourth year working as the school’s librarian. It isn’t as if I don’t know what we do there (I apply all pronouns herein very loosely to myself as only a fringe contributor to the work!!), but sometimes you have to come nose-to-nose with something before you really see it clearly.

 I was talking with my supervisor about a project that a local High School wants to do for our library. It involves building the cutest little “reading houses” for our kids to snuggle up in with a good book…a very good thing in my opinion. As we talked about the project, my supervisor described the little houses as three sided with an open front. She said, “Some of our kids have been locked in closets, so we have to be careful about confined spaces.”


OUR kids have been locked in closets?! And she said it as if describing their distaste for turnips: “Some of our kids just don’t like turnips, so we don’t serve them at dinner.” Well, then. Alrighty.

It makes me feel physically sick. As I’m typing this, I’m fighting tears of rage – rage – just imagining it. This is why I am only a fringe contributor and generally unaware of the kids’ circumstances. I just can’t handle it. It ignites something primal in me when I think of what these kids have suffered. Rejection. Humiliation. Isolation. Terror. Worthlessness. Confusion. Desperation...


That is the very worst thing: that mistreatment eventually leads you to conclude that it’s only what you deserve.

Here are the things you ask yourself when you experience abuse.
Was I bad?
What did I do?

And then you begin to answer yourself.
Because you deserve it.
Of course you’re bad, or you wouldn’t be here.
You lived.

And then you accept it. Forever. Because when that conclusion is confirmed to you over and over and over again, it becomes a part of who you are. It becomes your truth and your identity. And in small ways and large, you walk around bumping shoulders with normal people while wearing a shirt of shame that says that you are an affront to all things good…and you know it. It makes you cowed. Or it makes you very very angry.

As I thought about these little children huddled alone in the dark, I thought about the very nature of darkness and light and the physical and psychological impacts of both. Everyone can understand this. We hate getting up in the mornings before the sun comes up. We tell our kids to be home before dark. Horror movies rarely take place during the day. Light makes things grow. Darkness makes things dormant. No one was ever afraid of the light, and we rarely feel the compulsion to check under our beds during the daytime. It is a universal truth that light reveals and illuminates, while darkness conceals and obscures. There is understanding in light. There is obfuscation in darkness.

If we were to distill it to its essence, we would assign moral significance to each, and designate darkness “bad” and light “good”.

The Bible would affirm us in that, contrasting them frequently as aspects of evil and holiness. The Old Testament characterizes darkness sometimes as ‘thick’ and ‘dreadful’. It describes a ‘land of gloom and utter darkness’ from which there is no return. Some verses portray the people in darkness as ‘wandering’, ‘groping’, ‘despairing’, ‘banished’, and ‘shrouded’. One verse illustrates the darkness as a ‘terror’. Others call it a place where evil-doers hide, where pestilence stalks, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, and where people gnaw their tongues in agony. According to Psalm 143, it is the enemy who makes one dwell in darkness.

But Isaiah declares that those walking in darkness have seen a great light, and “on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.”  Jesus, for whom even the darkness will be as light, for He is the light and the life of man, has come to “open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” He has come to “turn the darkness into light before them”; “to those in darkness He says ‘Be free.’”  Jesus, the Light of the World. Whoever follows Him will never (no, not ever!) walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life. He came into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Him should stay in the darkness because now they are children of the light and of the day who no longer belong to the night or to the darkness.

Why, then, do we return to our closets?

Do you know that many abuse survivors will return to their abuser, or repeat the behavior they experienced? In a perverse way, to them it seems only right. Many kids who have experienced confinement will return to their closets to sleep, feeling somehow more secure there than in an open room. Not to diminish the experiences of heinous abuse by comparison, but Spiritual “survivors” often do the same thing: we return to our misery out of some subconscious belief that it is no less than we deserve to be deprived of the Light…to be separated from God. And so we continue to work out our sin instead of working out our salvation, finding comfort in known behavior, ‘deserved’ self-inflicted punishment, and a deprived existence. Acceptance. Identity.

I want you to know that if this describes you, if this is the pattern of your behavior, it is time for you to come into the Light…and stay here. This is where you will heal, and grow healthy. This is where you will find hope and purpose and freedom. The Light is your security, your protection, your guide. “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” “The LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end”, for “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” There is no returning to the dark. You will not find what you need there. Even in your closet, you are not hidden from the Light of the world; He will pursue you to the ends of the earth. It is time to abandon those strongholds forever. Come out…come out into the Light.


This is dedicated to the kids walking in real physical and spiritual darkness all over the world. If you are so inclined, offer them the Light by reaching out in service or support to your local emergency shelter or foster care agencies and organizations. Or better yet…welcome a child into your home and bathe them in the Light.