The First and Final Word is Eternal Light

mental_health_awareness_ribbon_button-p145188434955212106en8go_400Ashley Cole

Last year I posted a piece about the darkness of Christmas season; this year I have come to think of its reverse – Easter. I wrote about having to face the darkness as that is where truth resides. I still agree with that sentiment, however, as I was out walking this week I was struck with how difficult it can be to tunnel out of that darkness into a space of light.

A quick scan of newspaper headlines reveals the brokenness of our world. We are bombarded by the negative rhetoric around immigration, as well as the recent acts of violence in Colorado and Newtown, and subsequent government failure to legislate gun control. Further, the Boston bombings and a factory collapse in Salvo, Bangladesh culminate a seemingly endless season of loss.

These events are tragic and deeply saddening on their own, however they can inflame the underlying realities for those who struggle with mental illness. One would be remiss not to mention that some of these events are caused by those suffering from mental illness; in fact, in Colorado and Newtown, the two are inextricably linked by the insufficient framework to address mental health concerns in our communities. Tragically, the cause and effect can be the same.

Sometimes the darkness can become our comfort and shield from reconciling with our own grief, pain, loss—you name it. The emerging season, with its extended daylight hours, green shoots from the earth, and increasing volume of birds chirping, can seemingly threaten our personal darkness. Spring illuminates, awakens, yes, but while some embrace this change of the season with all the joy they can muster, not all can.  I know too well how difficult it can be. I myself have been in a place where it was difficult to get out of bed and face the day. Depression is a heavy weight that keeps you anchored to yourself.

For those who also share this subdued space, sometimes the light of Spring is a challenge. Spring does witness to hope but it is also requires a determined effort to change out of our tired, winter moods and into a posture of hope and eagerness for more. This season might signal the turning of the days, the opening of new life and the re-awakening of the earth encourage us to re-awaken to ourselves.

May Spring and the Easter story remain a life-giving and life affirming gift. May the story of Resurrection teach us the value and mystery of life, reminding us that the struggle is not everything. In its folds we confront our own darkness to make space for those who suffer and work our way out of it together in beloved community.

In her book A Book of Grace-Filled Days, Margaret Silf writes, “A first-century philosopher observed: ‘When I light a candle at midnight, I say to the darkness: I beg to differ.’” As we light our candles, we too, say to the darkness in our world and in our own hearts: You have no final power over us, for the first and final word is eternal light. Say those words when it’s feels dreary and allow your heart to ache for the light in our midst, even when the darkness is overwhelming.

Remember that the miracle of Colorado, Newtown, Boston and Saver Bangladesh, can be found in the resilience of the people left in the aftermath. We, like they, can choose not to let our light diminish and take the illumination of spring, using it as a reminder of the light that shines in each of us. For when you choose to shine for all to see, the darkness cannot overtake you.

Ashley Cole holds a degree in International Development Studies from Canadian Mennonite University, where she completed an eleven month internship at Romero House. She now lives in Calgary, where she works with street-involved people.


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