slippery shadows

“I was crying because I can’t get this shadow to stick.”
When Peter Pan, green tights and all, says this line to Wendy Moira Angela Darling in that magical nursery with a huge window, I’m hooked. I loved Neverland, Tinkerbell and even Captain Hook, but even as a little kid I was most curious about the idea of someone losing his shadow. Pixie dust or not, I saw shadows as slippery things.
The word shadow tends to get glossed over, when I think of it only as darkness, but the definition is more complex. A shadow can’t exist unless both dark and light are present in the same place. Something blocks the light, but the light is still there. “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” reads differently for me with a shadow’s true ingredients in mind.
I wish I could say my life was (and is) shadow free, but it’s impossible to have light in the room without some dark corners. Many Christian thinkers write about the “dark night of the soul,” and even Plato said way back when, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We are not immune to darkness. In the really dark moments I want to yell at God, “A little light would really help right about now!” Maybe you’re there today . . . wishing someone would understand.
God does.
God slipped into skin to understand. He knows. He knows physical pain. He knows how it feels to sit at a table knowing his closest friend (picture a spouse, parent, child, etc.) had totally turned on him. When I try to imagine it, it’s gross, lonely, ripe with fear, and yet Jesus chooses it, to not only endure it, but to also move toward it, to push through it.
He knows what we need to hear in times that leave us screaming at God, trying to find the light in this shadowy mess. He wants to help us lose that shadow, like Peter Pan, and push through to the hope that he’s got waiting on the other side, to the light that’s been there all along.

The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. – Matthew 4:16 (NIV)

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