When I speak and write is it possible for me to become so transparent that all that can be seen is only the Truth (Jesus) rather than my words? And is it possible for me to do this even while groping for grace in the dark?
I try to understand the darkness, I dive into it, seeking its answers and then I recoil in fear at the vortex of emptiness that starts to swirl…and I am pulled deeper and deeper into depression, like an unsuspecting swimmer caught in the undertow. Am I hypocritical for attempting to write about this wounded man’s mystical experience of God’s grace while in the midst of such emptiness?
Darkness, darkness everywhere,
swirling ‘round me, pervasive as the air.
Breathing in, breathing out,
is this darkness all I’m about?
This is where the rubber meets the road, or maybe this is where my body meets the road (as in a bike crash). It is so hard for me to write when I am dry. I liken it to getting up in the morning and realizing my skin no longer properly fits my bones or my life. I feel like one of those Raggedy Andy dolls, with my little blue jumpsuit falling off me, exposing my stitches, buttons, and red mop hair, all crumpled over in the corner.
But still God’s infinite Grace persists and beckons me.
But who am I to write about God’s Grace? Well, then again, who am I not to? If living fully means suffering deeply in order to be able to feel ALL things deeply – joy as well as pain, hope as well as despair – then I will embrace it for in all these moments the God of all comfort resides, ready and willing to love me in spite of myself. And the strange thing about being in such an empty, hopeless place is that I am not writing from a place of privilege.
I am unemployed and if not for God’s grace through an angel (BLESS YOU Ms. Pratt) I WOULD BE HOMELESS AS WELL. And, something I have not written about, I am in court being charged with a financial crime that could send me to prison. I am hardly the ‘model’ Jesus follower…but I am a ‘model’ for those Jesus came to redeem and heal and save. And the depression…well, I can’t even begin to tell you how this makes the aforementioned realities almost unbearable. But I gather there are a few who can understand the reality of which I write.
But, and this is an important “but” – I am (still) blessed, plain and simple. I cannot NOT admit that Truth. I must…it is invoked by integrity and a strong desire for awareness and transparency and a deepening knowledge of God’s messy grace. And when I write of ‘integrity,’ I am not talking about perfection, or that I’ve cornered the market on spiritual truth (both deadly stances to take in life).
I use the term integrity to mean looking honestly, with fear, trepidation, boldness and compassion, at the man I am: the Real Niles. I am speaking of the man who is more Velveteen Rabbit (all tattered, worn out, and falling apart but made real by God’s tender love) than superhero or even Raggedy Andy.
At the end of some days, if I am honest, I don’t like (much less love) the man that I am. Yet, at the end of other days, I truly marvel that I have lived such a rich, full Life – filled to capacity with the Fullness of Life (ALL of it). And I marvel in humility and gratitude that this cracked jar of clay can still hold Living Water and give drink to the thirsty.
If the truth be told, the more time I spend seeking, seeing, and loving God, the brighter the light becomes and the more this light burns up the “dross” of my life and holds me in the gentle warmth of God’s grace. This paradox — of a man who is fully human complete with scars, wounds, demons and brilliance being loved completely and fully by Father and others — is a divine phenomenon; one that I call Grace in Darkness.
I pray you all find and taste of this Grace…