Ladders and Light: Finding Peace Within the Busy
I love ladders. Where most people shy away from the slightly uncomfortable height, the questionable wobble, it’s just enough of a risk—but not-quite-dangerous to give me a bit of a buzz. Plus, the child in me still loves climbing things, being taller than everyone else, and having that new vantage point in the room.
After a few trips up the ladder, though, the adrenaline wears off and I get a bit dizzy. A little light-headed. I can still make it to the top but I’m a bit slower with my steps, a touch more grateful for the person at my feet holding me steady.
Cue Sunday afternoon, and find me at the top of a ladder the height of our church meeting room’s ceiling, stringing up fairy lights into a canopy to rest above our heads for a Guest Service that evening. The theme: “let there be light.” Where do we find light in a world that seems to be steadily growing darker? Hence, decorations of masses of fairy lights (and glow sticks). Win.
Life as an intern is busy. I, as a human, do not like being busy. I’m more of a be-er than a do-er and it’s difficult to constantly be moving from placement to placement, from theology to Student Café, from one-to-ones and French lessons and studying, to everything else on the to-do list that seems to pile up as quickly as things can be crossed off. It’s hard to make time for just being on my own, reading the bible, journaling, doing the things that restore me to life, when it feels like if I stop moving then something will fall off the delicately balanced pile of stuff on my shoulders that I’m precariously, just about, holding onto. It’s hard to get to the end of a Sunday evening, relieved that everything of the week has happened relatively smoothly, only to remember that on Monday morning it all starts again.
Realistically, my life isn’t that dark right now. I’m grateful for many good things and I’m conscious that I’m in a much happier place than some I can think of over the last few years. I work within a wonderful church that is committed to growing me, and shaping me to live more like Jesus. That’s good.
But this is a learning curve and sometimes the busy-ness, the stress of to-do lists, and the blurred lines of what is "church" and what is "work" allows the dark thoughts to creep in. Those mean ones that tell me that I’m not doing well enough, working hard enough, serving servant-heartedly enough. The voice that ranks up my good days, the weeks where I make it to all my placements, and manage to socialise in the evenings, awards me points for them; but simultaneously takes away points for failing to get the housework done, or not eating healthily enough, or having a grumpy attitude. The voice that tells me that I’m failing. The voices that make me frustrated at God because shouldn’t working for a church be easy, and fun, and warm and fluffy and lovely all the time? Why did God lead me to do this internship if he knew it would be so hard?
If post-graduate life, and starting this internship, is like climbing a ladder, then I’m getting lightheaded. It’s a challenge, there’s some risk involved, but I took my chances: and now I’m tired. The up-and-down snatches my breath away and I need a moment of pause; need a reassuring smile from the one holding the ladder steady.
In a world that seems to be fading into darkness as quickly as you can twist a dimmer switch, thanks to our collective human propensity to fail, where does light come from?
I believe in growth. I believe that I’m a different person now from who I was two, or four, or eight years ago. I think this is thanks to lots of things—life, our natural inclination to grow and change and learn; God, for guiding me to particular things, that teach me in particular ways; the people and places I’ve come across, who have pushed and taught and affirmed me; and myself, for wanting more, for wanting to be more "me" than a girl who feels potential curiosity for the world but is too tightly wrapped in fear and shame to step into it. I think that growth is natural but I think it’s effort too. I’ve seen glimpses of the world inside me that dares to dream that I could have particular skills, I could get good at certain things, be able to help people in the ways that make my heart beat faster, the things that I could talk about effortlessly. I think that this version of me, the one that I see inside my heart and head, is a promise for my future. I don’t think it’s there in vain, but I don’t think I’ll get there without some effort.
Interning isn’t always easy. Life isn’t always easy. Darkness creeps into our minds, our health, our relationships. We could build a hierarchy of issues that are bigger and darker than others—depression, illness, grief. But realistically, we all live in this world darkening under the dimmer switch and whether the heaviest things land on our shoulders or not, the weight is there. Sometimes things are busy when we don’t want them to be busy and finding peace is harder among the to-do lists, the expectations to meet, the tightrope-walking and the fear of slipping.
But I believe in the promises spoken to me. For me, they come from God; maybe for you they come from elsewhere. I believe that this year is part of the journey, the preparation. I believe that God—or something, somewhere in the universe —is rejoicing in my willingness to work through the newness and fragility of this time. I know that I’ll receive comfort when I need it, and that good things will be worked out and weaved among the difficulty, the complicated bits of life.
With the snap of glow sticks across the room, we lifted up our dark situations. Invite the light in.
We climb the ladders again, take down the fairy lights. Let peace settle around us as the clear-up begins. The weight on our shoulders a little lighter.
[Photo by Julie Bloom.]
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