“The Light shines in the darkness…” Book of John
“Whoo! That was a good one.” “Yeah–you made it!” The gigantic tree lit our living room in warm, white light. It’s Goliath size no match for our aim. We were altogether “David” each of us picking up an ornament and launching it into the high, upper branches of the 18-foot tree standing in our living room, grazing the ceiling and blazing out Christmas. Ornament throwing is a Sorvik family tradition since the tree is too tall to hang ornaments without scaffolding. Everybody in our family loves the craziness of it all! I mean, who else puts on Christmas music and hurls ornaments to decorate? We take personal delight in putting the ‘deck’ in ‘deck the halls.’
Christmas of 2009 was different…yes, we laughed and threw our ornaments as in previous years, but we felt very small and vulnerable and deeply hurt that Christmas. That year our lives had been altered forever. Instead of standing and jumping and whooping as the ornaments hit the tree, one member of our family sat in his wheelchair and chose to belong to a season of hope when so many parts of his life and ours had been severely crushed. He, Josh, was a real David taking on the terrifying, overwhelming giant of paraplegia. He had been injured nine months earlier as a senior in high school in a skiing accident. Our lives crashed along with him on that ski hill. “I wish I could take your place,” I had choked out in a whisper as he lay in his hospital bed. “I wouldn’t let you,” he whispered back.
I honestly can’t tell you the pain I feel even now, seven years later, remembering it all. It hurts so much I don’t go back very often to those early months and years. However, I am reminded as I sit here with tears in my eyes and hands shaking as I type, that in retrospect, as in the biblical tale, Goliath has not won. For those reading today who are facing a grief beyond grief, Josh survived. Not only survived but is a living example of one who faces loss each day of his life and continues to choose forward instead of giving in to the dark places that we all visit but are never meant to stay.
Seven years ago the light was a pinprick in the heavy, oppressive material of night that threatened to smother us and our faith. But even a pinprick of light always pierces the darkness. And though we had to find our way each moment of each day by that small light, it was enough to illuminate a few crucial things to us that holidaythatdidn’tfeellikeaholiday, season.
We do not move forward all alone. Family, friends and co-workers are combined in the most delicate, detailed of ways – in ways we believe only God can orchestrate – to bind us together in a healthy community that keeps us from a downward spiral and enables us to see light. The actual worth of our love for each other became very real as we ached for our losses and chose to value the personhood of Josh. Though disoriented in the dark, the light illumined the value of who we are as people, not our ability to walk or run or do the stuff we used to do. Personal crisis is like a bomb going off, and as we, bewildered and broken, sift through the wreckage, we often find our perspective of what’s valuable has changed forever. All that glitters isn’t gold. Real gold comes from the earth from down deep. ScienceDaily, in a 2011 article reports, “During the formation of Earth, molten iron sank to its centre to make the core. This took with it the vast majority of the planet’s precious metals–such as gold and platinum. In fact, there are enough precious metals in the core to cover the entire surface of Earth with a four-metre thick layer.” To uncover gold, you have to mine deep. Our family’s character continues to be dug throughout this process of pain. We choose to see good and let a few trusted others see it for us when we can’t. We choose to press into today instead of longing for the past. We choose as a family to trust the God who describes himself as Light in a far from perfect world, even when we don’t understand his plans.
Where is your ‘light’ this holiday season? Darkness can quickly overwhelm us in the rough, broken terrain we sometimes traverse in. Our family sought out help when we needed it, when the pain got so bad we lost sight of the pinprick of light. Please know that your life is valuable-that you’re not alone if this season finds you awash in grief instead of joy. You may feel out of step with celebrating this year. Find the one who can grieve with you as well as gently lead you toward the bit of light you can handle at this tender time in your life. The Magi of long ago followed the star, not the dark of the night around them.