Albus Dumbledore said that. A man of whimsical wisdom, he was. He dealt with great tragedy early on in his life, which continued to shape him throughout his many years. He was well-known for his brilliance and his ability to see value in everyone, “however apparently insignificant or wretched,” as wrote his good friend Elphias Doge in his obituary. He was able to see things others couldn’t, and seemed to always have a plan behind the scenes that no one realized till the very end. He fought evil, pursued the greater good, and always believed, sometimes to his ridicule, in the potent power of love.
He has a number of quotes worth sharing, including, “It is our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities,” “We must all face the choice between what is right, and what is easy,” and “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live,” among many others. But this one in particular caught my fancy, perhaps because for a long time, I didn’t quite understand it.
I first came across in its original context as I was reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,* in which I first took it to be merely one of Dumbledore’s typical tidbits: witty and whimsical and throwaway. After all, this is the man who when called upon to “say a few words” declared “Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!” In fact, his comments were some of my favorite parts of the entire series. Wise, quirky, and vaguely portentous-sounding.
But later, it gave me pause.
Because we’ve all been through dark places, right? Maybe you’re in one now. Maybe it doesn’t look like there’s a way out, doesn’t feel like there ever will be. Maybe it’s the loss of a job, difficulties at home, that final word from someone you thought you loved. Maybe it’s abandonment, maybe it’s rejection, maybe it’s failure. Maybe it’s depression, maybe it’s doubt, maybe it’s anxiety, maybe it’s pain, maybe it’s hopelessness, maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s just plain weariness of living the same cycle over and over and over again.
Maybe it’s something big, and maybe it’s something small. Maybe it’s something that you know feels bigger than it is but you can’t help but only see the mountain, and its shadow stretching for miles. It’s only an uphill climb, and your legs feel like lead, and just when you’re about to reach the end an avalanche sends you right back to where you started.
You ever feel this way?
I know I have.
Maybe it’s not a struggle of circumstance. Maybe it’s a struggle on the inside. Maybe, like me, your struggle, your habitual sin, your addiction is pride, or envy, or lust, or criticism, or irritableness, or anger, or selfishness, or malcontent, or entitlement, or malice, or gossip, or deceit, or hatred, or quarreling, or maybe it’s something else, something you’re scared to name. Maybe it’s something you feel like you can’t stop, or that you’ve been trying to stop and sometimes you think you’ve finally arrived but then you spiral right back down again the second you think you’ve won.
Maybe the reason for that is that you’re trying to fight on your own.
I know that’s what I tend to do a lot of the time. I put the burden of my sin on my shoulders, coming up with a list of all my errors and brainstorming millions of methods to fix myself. Except…I can’t. I’m never good enough. Ever. Nothing I do, it never amounts to anything in the long run. I never get anywhere, I’m never “fixed.”
Then, finally, I go to the last place I have left.
John 6:66-69 says,
From this time, many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
To whom shall we go?
Isn’t that a question? We can go to our friends. Our partner. Our pills. Our media. Our Internet. Our default. Our distractions. The thing that makes us forget, the thing that makes us not care, the thing that takes the pain away.
Does it, though? Does it really take the pain away?
In the Tenth Avenue North song “We Won’t Numb the Pain” there’s a segment that says, “We want a cure, not a medication.” I might be young, but there’s one thing I have learned in life: there’s only one cure. There’s only one way to kill the darkness.
And that is to turn on the Light.
Psalm 50:2 (this is another great Psalm to read, on the power of God) says,
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth!
1 John 1:5 reiterates,
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you: that God is Light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
Light reveals, light leads, light purifies, light comforts. This light–this light heals. It restores. It makes whole. It satisfies the searchers, it completes the broken, it comforts the hurting, it says, “I Am enough. My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”
What a beautiful concept.
When Moses, before the burning bush, requested the Name of God, that he might tell the people by whom he was sent, he received two words: I AM.
I Am. I Am Light. I Am Love. I Am Power. I Am Life. I Am the Way. I Am the Truth. I Am Grace. I Am Might. I Am Strength. I Am Enough. I Am the Rock. I Am your Refuge. I Am your Shield. I Am your Comforter. I Am Pure. I Am Holy. I Am Sovereign. I Am the Lord of the Universe. I Am the Maker of the Stars. I Am the Painter of the Sunsets. I Am the Namer of your Soul. I Am the Weaver of your Heart. I Am the Sculptor of your Mind. I Am the One who Knows, who Understands, who Guides, who Strengthens, who Loves, who Pursues, who Reigns, who is Worthy. I Am God.
He is God. Sometimes we use that word so much it loses it’s meaning. He is God.
Don’t lose that. Don’t forget, in the darkness, who calls you to the light. Don’t forget who isn’t just some distant force out there in space, who isn’t running away from you, who’s not trying to make you stumble but to draw you to himself.
Don’t forget who God is. And don’t forget to turn on the Light.
I need this, as I embark today into uncertainty. I take comfort in knowing that God has a plan, but I guess I still need to…let go.
Letting go is hard. I don’t like it. Because I want control. I need it. I crave it. My humanity seems to starve without it.
But He demands it.
All I want is a little piece. I can try to hide it from him, my little corner of my life that I refuse to give over to him. The area that I continue to hold onto with clenched fists and white knuckles for fear that my grip will slip. But that’s the thing–God doesn’t want just a part of me. God wants my all.
I guess that’s why it’s so hard.
And I mean, I’ve been down that road before. I know that a lot of times, it’s a struggle. It will be hard. I know that a lot of times, following God means the road might feel broken and twisted and thorny–but I also know what it feels like to bask in the light, what it feels like as he chisels away to be made new. And, well, that’s the one thing I want more than control.
It’s beautiful, really. For those of you still searching, take it from me: it is worth it. It is so worth it. And he will come through. That’s the glorious thing about God: God doesn’t depend on how I feel, but on who he is. And he is faithful, and he is in control.
But surrender, it does have to be intentional. These feelings of closedness, these walls around my heart–I have to lower them on purpose. Sometimes I hold onto my own pain just because I want to feel something, not wanting to risk letting him in even though I know that he brings something so much greater. Something holy. Something powerful. Something that will make me whole.
Sometimes I call it love.
But these are the same feelings I was having a month ago when I wrote this poem. It’s not much of a poem, really; it doesn’t rhyme or anything. But I need this, as I embark into my mission this summer, sharing God with kids all season–I need a cleansing. I need to know my heart is whole and wholly his. I need his refining fire to make me pure. So I let go, and call down the Name of God in this place today. Change me.
Take all of your guilt;
hold your shame in your hands–
Draw out your fears,
and condense all your grief.
Take hold of despair
and crumple your worry,
hidden in your clenched fists,
like a ball of newspaper.
Throw your sin on the pile too.
Gather them and cup them in your open palms and shape them into a leaden ball.
But at least, at last outside of you.
Feel it’s weight–
and like a lantern, let it fly.
Release it all into the sky.
Relax your tight and desperate grip.
I know you’re afraid to lose it,
for it feels like all you have.
You thought it was a part of you,
and, yes, it was:
it’s made you stronger.
But now it’s started crippling you.
And it’s time
to let go.
Light it up and watch it disappear
like a blue balloon.
Unfold, and let your colors loose upon the world.