I can’t see in the dark. Even in the dusk really. I stumble into walls and chairs, trip over 100 lb beasts who blend into the black even though they are white, golden. The stairs are a particular hazard, I often forget to count as I proceed down and miss the last couple. Every night before I go to bed, I make the rounds, ensuring chairs are scooted in, toys are returned to the proper room, all obstacles are cleared. I rise before the light and often during the night, wandering outside to listen to the sounds of the dark, the peaceful time alone soothing my restless soul. These shadowy wanderings are dangerous for one with limited feeling in the lower extremities, limited eyesight. Darkness is perilous, light is safety. Is it any wonder that I seek the Light, that my soul yearns for those who shed this precious glow into my world?
Two weeks ago I moaned and complained to my small group because my plan for time after my Plum headed to kindergarten was not panning out. I expected long days of writing in solitude, space to contemplate, to just be alone. Now my Chef was home with me all day and I loved his company but I needed quiet, needed seclusion. My friends listened, suggested, gave me space at their homes. On the drive to C’s home, our gathering place for this next meeting, I went below the speed limit. I extended my time alone in the car. I fantasized about driving back to the mountains where I felt such peace. I arrived with an update of irony, a house more filled with noise, chaos. A home exploding with the sounds of a 2 1/2 year old, dogs barking, people talking, cooking, always, always activity. For someone who craves silence, I certainly seemed to be undermining my own plan.
C. shared the fable about the man who went to the mountain top, complaining about his wife and kids and the noise. The guy at the top, the wise one, told him to bring in his donkey. The man descended, brought in the donkey and then soon returned to the mountain top. What horrible advice, he complained. My home is now even louder! He was advised to bring in his cow. Again he descended, followed the advice, his home grew louder. This process repeated until all of his animals were in his home. Finally about to lose his mind, (I am assuming, as I would be) he ascended again to the wise one. He was told to remove all of the animals to their rightful place. The cacophony of clucking, mooing, baying, baaing, barking, all gone. Silence, as silent as a household with only his wife and children could bring. He was content. (Too Much Noise by Ann McGovern, my retelling is complete paraphrase, buy the book.)
I got the message. C brought perspective which is called light in my world. This story was a gentle chiding even though she never would have meant it that way. Not a story about donkeys or cows or loud children, rather about choosing to find your own peace in the midst of the chaos, determining your own role in the noise making. How much we hear, how much we see, knowing there can always be more, worse, our choice to find comfort in the now. I left our group feeling chastised. I needed that. Those people who follow Jesus, they are called disciples. It requires discipline. Not the spanking kind that this word has come to be associated with, rather the teaching kind. Jesus was a teacher who led the way into the Light. Using parables, he called his people out of the darkness. He asks us to do the same with each other, never to be too afraid to gently hold another sister accountable. But first there must be trust. Preaching at strangers doesn’t work. Teaching with, to our friends is discipleship. I trust these friends to discipline me because I know their hearts. I hear what God is calling them to say, even when they would be appalled to think I felt chided. I know God is in the midst of our gatherings.
I need friends who help me find my way around in the shadows, removing obstacles with me, putting things where they go. Otherwise I trip and fall, I get hurt. Without friends to share their wisdom, I would never find my way home, stuck adding noise, adding chaos, bringing in donkeys and cows. I would be forever wishing I could go back to the mountains. Somehow I stumble, trip to these wise friends who take this journey with me and illuminate the way when it is too dark for me too see. My friends are disciples who carry candles, art supplies, make bread and share stories. Sometimes a trip to the mountains is just across town, a slow drive towards the Light.