There is a three-mile course, of sorts, that winds around the golf course and through a neighborhood nearby. Around lunchtime, I am prone to stretch myself up out of my writing chair and walk that three-mile course with my earbuds in my ears. Usually, I am listening to a podcast.
Well, not too long ago, I was going through a rough patch. It was a bad enough patch for me to ask some girlfriends to pray for me.
“So, it’s come to this? Prayer?” one of my dear, sweet sisters chided me when I’d finally let it out that I was struggling.
Why do we wait so long? Why do we think it’s so very valiant of us to suffer through, alone?
God has seen fit to give us to one another to love and to encourage and to hold hands through the darkest nights.
At its worst, this dark rough patch had me in my bed, unable to see the light and convinced that hope was a cruel joke someone had played on me. I was fearful and anxious and sad. I wasn’t sure I believed in God anymore. I wasn’t sure I believed in anything at all. Wise and strong and faith-filled people have known darkness like this, too. Wise and strong and faith-filled people have known and loved people who are on this road.
I am not a doctor or a theologian or a life coach or a counselor. I am a writer. So, consider this a story, rather than a prescription. Because, one day, as the dark was slowly giving way to Light once again, I remembered that three-mile route and thought I might just have it in me to walk that course that afternoon. I found my sneakers — they hadn’t been worn for weeks — and pressed the earbuds into my ears.
Holding my phone in my hand, I began a search for the latest podcast episode, but instead I found a gospel radio station I’d created for myself and I pressed my thumb against the little sideways triangle that we have all come to understand means “Play.”
It took awhile for me to adjust; in the same way our eyes have to adjust when we’ve been in a dark room and someone barges in and flips on the lights.
A heart and soul accustomed to the dark is skeptical of hopefulness. But, somewhere around the second mile of my afternoon walk, the vocalist began to sing the reminder that “praise will confuse the enemy” and I thought, perhaps, he might be right.
As it turns out, however, the regular, normal, conventional acts of praise seemed, in that moment, beyond me. My voice was too dry and weak for a shout of praise. My hands hung at my sides, unwilling to clap out a few beats of praise. I was barren of tears, having — it would seem — used them all. No prayers formed with the beating of my heart, and even a whispered expression of gratitude seemed to require far too much effort. Besides all that, “regular, normal, conventional” praise seemed trite and empty and insincere.
But how about a cartwheel?
Would a cartwheel count? I tested the weight of the idea in my mind and it felt so much more like light than darkness. What if praise is a cartwheel? What if praise is putting two feet on the ground at the beginning of the day? What if praise is tying up your shoelaces? What if praise is taking this breath right here . . . and the one that comes after it, like a steady tide of the very smallest vestige of hopefulness, gently rolling itself beneath the soles of your aching feet? What if praise is whatever is the only thing you can muster when the darkness has closed in around you?
And what if that breath, or shoelace-tying, or cartwheel-turning praise is the smallest mustard seed of faith, buried in the darkness when the fallow season wraps around us and makes the Light so hard to see?