Hope Begins in the Dark

Joy Lovely Joy
I don’t know when it happens or how it happens or sometimes (like now) how to get out of it. And I suspect if you’re a writer — particularly a freelance writer working with set guidelines and a slew of editors — you’ve been here too. This is the place where you beat your head against the desk and you stare at a blank screen and you find any excuse to not work on the project at hand (or under contract) because you’re just not hitting the mark. This is the place of paralysis. I dread working on this project, and trust me, if I were to explain the project it would seem simple, fun even. Let me assure you – it is not fun.

I wrote the above words yesterday, hoping that by writing it out — as is often the case — I could purge myself of whatever was holding me back and pick myself up and move on. No such luck. In fact, the opposite happened and I found myself in a dark place by nightfall, both literally and figuratively.

I don’t often talk about my faith here because I fear alienating readers (maybe I should get over that), and my relationship with God is a deeply personal one. My running dialogue with God is a continuous thread woven throughout the fabric of my everyday routine. I pray constantly for  my children, my family, my friends (whether real or online) and neighbors. I’ll drop what I’m doing and pray for a child whose struggle/fight/disease/disappearance I learn through Instagram or Facebook or the news. If you’re a part of my life and you’re carrying darkness, or you’ve expressed something you’re struggling with, or you’re contemplating something huge, chances are high that I’ve sent up words to God on your behalf. Yet I struggle with praying for myself. I fear that I’m being selfish. I rationalize this by telling myself that no one knows me better than God, so I don’t need to tell Him my struggles and worries. He already knows.

Last night, when I found myself in the dark, it wasn’t just about this project. I can now see that this has been boiling for sometime — I’ve been simultaneously stretched thin and stuck, not knowing in which direction to turn, where to place my attention or priorities, and suddenly all my failures, all my shortcomings, all my second guesses, all my worries and fears and regrets spilled over into one sticky puddle at my feet. So I sank into it. I surrendered. I pushed my prayer-censoring self out of the way and finally brought some things before God. And then I watched that puddle slowly dissipate.

Hope begins in the dark.

-Anne Lamott

This morning, I awoke with a clearer focus, a more positive mindset, a mental list of actions I need to take to get this train back on track, and I’ve managed to accomplish more on this project in a few short hours than I have in two weeks. God answered my prayers with a vision of my life and priorities and goals as a neatly compartmentalized pie chart, and I now see the things that need my attention most, the areas where I need to kick it up a notch, and the places where I need to cool it for a bit.

I’m not saying my prayer session was miraculous — there are still things under the surface that could pull me under if I let them — but it did gift me direction and grant me peace for the time being. Is it a coincidence that the sun is splashing light across a blue canvas of sky today? I certainly don’t think so.

Confession: I feel a bit exposed writing this post, and publishing it will push me out of my comfort zone, but sometimes such vulnerability is essential for growth, so here goes…

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9 thoughts on “Hope Begins in the Dark

  1. little red pen says:

    It’s hard to write about these things, hey? I’m very unChurchy, myself, but I do find myself praying from time to time, and there’s a prayer that’s got me through a few dark nights. Last night was one.

    Lord, it is night.

    The night is for stillness. Let us be still in the presence of God.

    It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done; let it be.

    The night is dark. Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.

    The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.

    The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.

    In your name we pray.
    Amen.

  2. revolutionarypie says:

    Nice post, Lara. I know what you mean about avoiding writing about faith. I worry about being misinterpreted, and pigeonholed (and like you, maybe I should get over that!). I love the Lamott prayer, BTW. Her books drive me a little nuts — I find her endearing and maddening at the same time.

  3. Heidi says:

    I also struggle with writing about faith. I kind of tiptoe around it and fear looking like a crazy extremist. But deep down I know this is a fear that is mostly unfounded. My readers (the few I have) enjoy my voice and my stories, and to be authentic, God has to enter in. Faith has to be a part of it.

    I’m glad you found space to care for yourself through prayer. I know that struggle well.

  4. Hallie Sawyer says:

    I think this post was beautiful because it came from a vulnerable and raw place within you. Last fall, I was in the same spot you are in now. I had too many irons in the fire and I suffered greatly for it. Even though I was walking away from money, it wasn’t worth the stress, worry, self-deprivation, and time away from my family.

    I, too, have a very personal relationship with God and don’t talk about it much in my blog. However, when I struggle and need help, I have no problem letting others know who I turn to in my time of need. Having God as a part of our daily lives shouldn’t be kept a secret and I applaud you for getting out of your comfort zone with this post. I think the world would be a better place if we put God at the head of the table, you know?

    I’m glad to hear today was a brighter day and that you found some answers you were looking for. Rooting for you!

  5. Lindsey Mead (@lemead) says:

    I love this post, and the quotes you share from Anne Lamott are some of the ones I think about most often. My daughter, who is 11, recently told me she’d read a quote somewhere she loved. “A certain darkness is needed to see the stars,” she told me it was. Tears filled my eyes because, yes, it’s true, and because I have always loved that line too. Beautiful. Hope some stars come out soon. xox

  6. Cecilia says:

    This is a wonderful, calming, and inspiring post, and this comment is coming from someone who doesn’t practice any faith.

    I’m so glad you wrote it. I know well what you mean about feeling exposed. There have been so many times when I’ve debated over whether or not to write about certain topics, but I’ve learned that it is often those posts that touch people the most (not that I haven’t also gone back to “unpublish” certain posts as well!).

    • Lara says:

      Thank you as always, Marie. Still feeling exposed with this one, and have considered deleting it more than once, but so far I’ve managed to resist.

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