In the dark

Growing up, I was afraid of the dark. I hated going into a room that was coated in blackness and especially falling asleep in a lightless bedroom. Things looked so much scarier shrouded in shadows. A pile of clothes transforms into a dripping monster. A teddy bear looks like a gross alien. Without light, everything is


fuzzy…


obscured…


deformed…


abnormal….


not true to form…


When my imagination got too much for me to take, I would jet to turn on a lamp, a nightlight, the ceiling light,  or in moments of deep terror, all three. Visibility would flood in and I would be calm again. I would climb back into bed and sleep soundly, assured that no scary threats could hide in the light. 


How do you flip on the light switch in a relationship that grew in the dark?


Two of my friends are in secret relationships, romances that are, for the time being, kept hidden. Their reasons for it are valid: 


Age differences. 


Outside parties being attracted to one partner. 


Wanting the connection to be kept out of the mouths of others. 


But the secrecy is spilling doubt and misgivings into their hearts. One friend expressed, 

“I don’t feel like he cares for me.”

Another believes that his girlfriend loves him. But, 

“Not the way I need to be loved.”

I wonder if the dark is smearing what’s true and what’s actual into something altogether different. Maybe once the romances are brought into brightness, the curves will turn into angles, the basins will morph into crescendos and what’s in limbo will land on earth. 

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Lessons

At least once a week, I wander into my coworker Rebecca’s office for a teaching session. Over the years, we’ve grown from coworkers to friendly colleagues to true blue friends. But I’m beginning to believe that God’s placed her in my life for an additional purpose: a life coach. Maybe it’s because I mirror herself at my age. Or because I’m admittedly tender in a lot of the ways of the world. Whatever it is, I’ve scribbled dozens of pages of mental notes from her tales of life experience. 


Lesson #290: A man who cooks is a man you hook.
 
For the past couple of months, a temp has been working in our department. James is extremely congenial with a warm smile. It is hard not to notice him: his 6-foot frame towered over most of us and his rich baritone made eardrums tingle. Recently, he nailed a permanent position at another organization. As a farewell present to us, he made an incredible batch of deep dish bread pudding. The cinnamon and raisins and vanilla swam beautifully together and before I knew it, I had swallowed the last bit on my plate. As I stood to go to my desk, I saw Rebecca wiggling her fingers, motioning for me to come into her office.  She lowered her voice and said, 

“And he cooks….!”
James had been another one of Rebecca’s dating recommendations that I passed on.  I laughed and headed back to my desk but not before she wagged her finger at me, silently instructing me to take notice. 

Lesson #367: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
 
Rebecca pulled out this story to teach about not letting bliss blind you. At a different place of employment, she was in a relationship with a fellow coworker. Ty was a dream come true. Besides being handsome, he was kind, taking extra steps to get presents and necessities for her young son.  

They did spend time together in the workplace but used discretion to throw coworkers and supervisors alike off their scent. They spoke via phone after hours, conversing and joking about everything under the sun. Ty was 
attentive and most important to Rebecca, he never pressured or asked her about sex.

But that’s what made her alarms go off. 
(The first lesson Rebecca taught me was “Christian or not, if a man doesn’t ask, mention or try, something’s up.”

As time went on, she noticed fragments of concern. Phone calls at certain times. Sudden departures. A woman answering his phone. Finally, she prayed and asked God to show her if this man was His man for her. Shortly after, she got a phone call from a friend. Her friend was sitting in a beauty salon and overheard a conversation between a customer and a stylist. The customer had just moved from South Carolina to be closer to her fiance. As the conversation went on, her friend realized that this woman’s fiance was Ty. 

So Rebecca got up early the next morning. She took sweet time primping for the day. Dousing herself in more perfume than usual. Brushing on one more coat of mascara. Styling her hair just so. That day when Ty came into her office, her beautifully painted face told him to leave her life. Rebecca recounted everything her friend told her and with each sentence, Ty’s face grew more and more stricken in disbelief. He asked her, 

“How did you find out?”
Her response?

“Does it matter?”
It didn’t. Ty went back to his fiance and Rebecca went back to her life with one more coin of experience in her treasury. 

Lesson #455: Don’t settle. Wait for God’s best.
 Once, Rebecca was deeply in love with a man named Lawrence. She knew he was no good for her. She knew that he had another woman in his life. But she couldn’t shake him. His presence lived with her and it seemed there was no way she would ever get over him. One day, she spoke to a older coworker about her dilemma. When she was done venting about the relationship and her entanglement with Lawrence, her coworker spoke very simply to her:

“Sis, you are in a triangle. And that is not God’s best for you.” 

The older man took her hands in his and prayed. Prayed for her spirit. Prayed for her future. Prayed for God to cut the thread that tied her so tightly to Lawrence. When Rebecca let go of his hands, she said everything she felt for him left instantly. 

“He fell off me like a change of clothes, 
like dead weight.” 

The older man continued to encourage Rebecca, never failing to remind her that God’s script for her life included a leading man, someone who will love her the way she should be loved.  

I know my mental notepad will continue to be filled with tidbits of her wisdom. 

—-
When she speaks, her words are wise, 
and she gives instructions with kindness.
-Proverbs 31:26


Battles

My office has been transformed into a war zone. 


Abigail’s words turned into croaks. Red quickly flooded her eyes, and tears collected in the corners, threatening to spill down her cheeks.  Sadness was etched all over her face. The director of my department sat before me, drenched in defeat.

For the past year, she has not gotten along with Regina, the editor-in-chief of our publication. Their battles are legendary. Phone calls so loud that they can be heard beyond the closed door. Fiery e-mails that clog in-boxes. Open disdain when in the presence of one another.  It was common knowledge that the two hate each other. 

Not dislike.

Hate.

And now, it looks like that hate is going to destroy Abigail, professionally and emotionally. The discord between the two has unintentionally drawn battle lines. Some coworkers are on Regina’s side, catering to her cause while undermining Abigail. Others are on Abigail’s side, having experienced the nastiest side of Regina’s attitude and believing that this fall-out is a result of not bending to ridiculous demands. 

It even appears that those who Abigail answers to have made their pick. They told her not to take Regina on because

she.

would.

NOT.

win. 


“I really want to quit,” she said wearily, her cry making her voice crack. My heart breaks as I look her and I feel so helpless.

But…

I know Somebody who isn’t.  

I am going to join the battle—– the spiritual one.

 It occurred to me that this is not truly between Abigail and Regina but unseen forces, greedy to see them both destroyed

Since that day in her office, I pray daily to the Father, asking Him to bring justice and fairness, for peace to return to her personal and work life, and most of all, for her relationship with Him. Jesus definitely uses twists of life to introduce Himself to a daughter who forgot Him. 

Instead of firing a bullet, I will keep whispering prayers until something breaks through. 


And something will.  

 O Lord, oppose those who oppose me. Fight those who fight against me. Put on Your armor, and take up Your shield. Prepare for battle, and come to my aid.”
-Psalm 35:1-2


Private

Growing up, I would watch the adults in my family collect around a crowded dining room table, a bright cozy  kitchen, or sizzling barbecue grill to talk.


 Talk about everything


Children. 


Jobs. 


Spouses. 


Money. 


Coworkers. 


Church folk. 


Relatives.


World events. 


Sex. 


Fears. 


Dreams. 


No topic was ever missed or skipped over. Whenever it became aware that I was in earshot, I was quickly shooed out the room. But the rich laughter and vociferous declarations were too full to be contained and always flowed into the other rooms. 

As I grew older, my sister and I were invited to share in this familial tradition. My sister shined at it. She, of the phone calls to her boyfriends so deafening the whole house would tremble and rippling opinionated spirit, gladly shared her all. I would listen as she would go on about her feelings towards her friends and other matters while my mother would absorb it and then reflect her own thoughts. 

The exchange was common and, in the minds of all in the household,  the way it should be done. 

But…

Where my relatives open doors, I shut them. I chalk lines. I draw curtains. Boundary is my middle name and I spell it P-R-I-V-A-T-E. 

 In this regard, I was viewed as irregular. In my family, everything is to be shared,  and refusal to do so is greeted with confusion, dismay, and disbelief.

 Family members, in particular, my mother, were bothered by my unwillingness to bare my soul. I remember one incident in particular where my mother was visually disturbed that I opted out of a girls’ sharing session. 

She learned to live with it but I think she thought that it was a phase from which I would outgrow.
During a recent conversation, she turned the knob on a door that is locked to her for the time being: my love life. When I didn’t divulge after minutes of pounding, she said in an exasperated voice,

“But you’re 25!

I was and am far from a recluse. I do share and bare and reveal. But it is within limits and there are few around me who have seen my heart in its entirety. The heaviest and most precious portions always go to those who know how to handle them.
I love and cling to my family and admire their openness. But I’ve seen these offered portions pricked and chopped to pieces.

Such a dilemma. Is it wrong to hide parts of your heart from your family?