“Today is the first day of Diwali,” my texts to the two of them read.
It was last Wednesday and I was on my way to the airport. “It’s a Festival of Lights which celebrates light overcoming darkness and divine overcoming demonic and it begins today.” In a few hours, I would get off the plane and into Ronne’s SUV. She and I would discuss it then, but the other one replied quickly. “I’ve heard of it,” he answered, “we need to celebrate.”
We did. Both of us had and were overcoming many things. The journey I had watched him walk over the past several months had been a difficult but brave one. I was proud of each step he took forward. I agreed and sent the little plane emoji to let him know we were leaving the runway.
Ronne and I were coming together after a time of busyness.
She had spent several months traveling the world doing advocacy journalism for various non-profit organizations she works with and I had been in a busy season of my own which was finally coming to a bit of an end. We were together for more than just rest and conversation about our impending projects. We were celebrating light too.
Because I have been through a dark, dark night and am finally reaching the other side. You may have followed my story for quite some time or maybe you are just coming to it. This November has been two years since I left an abusive marriage. That’s still hard to say. I said once there isn’t a villain in my story and that will always be true. We all have the potential to become breakers if we do not pursue wholeness for our broken. Ronne says, “We have all been abused. We have all been abusers.” Two years. Two years since light began triumphing over dark in my story. Two years. It’s been a long road and there have been very dark moments in it, but I am here. And it has been worth every hard step I have taken and am taking. It is worth every battle I’ve had to fight and continue to fight. I’m worth it.
We headed to a late lunch and then wandered through shops — trying on hats and longing for unnecessary boots at prices that were out of our combined budgets. We happened upon one of our favorite stores, Philanthropy. Philanthropy is a shop full of every good thing you can imagine. Flowy gypsy tops, scrunchy socks, fingerless gloves, candles which actually smell good (and a few which don’t), and Giving Keys. Many of the products are from cause based companies who donate a portion or all of their proceeds to non-profit organizations. Our favorite thing about Philanthropy, by far, is the prayer wall. It is covered in hooks on which hang long manila tags filled with writing. Leaned against it is a board which tells you to leave a prayer and asks if you are so inclined to take a few to pray over.
This time I reached for two prayer tags to write upon, one for me and one for the man I had been talking to earlier about Diwali, the one with the green thumb who loves football almost as much as his mother and Jesus. The prayer for me was a prayer of celebration and thanksgiving. It went something like this, because I am kind of casual with God…
“Oh, hey, it’s me. Today is the beginning of the Festival of Lights. The time when we celebrate light triumphing over darkness. You shattered every dark that held me captive in the past two years and for much longer and you brought light back into my world. You filled me with your light. Today I celebrate this and pray for whoever takes this prayer. Shine light on them.”
I tied a knot and hung it on a hook and bent my head to begin the next one. I inhaled deeply as I thought of the words I wanted to weave into a prayer for this man I have been watching unfold into the light. Over the past several months, I’ve seen him begin to bloom. It’s been a slow progression; like watching a time lapse of a seedling but without the fast forward option. The fear which had been his constant companion when we first met is rare now and something he’s learned to combat. His spirit is fierce, like the lion he plans to get tattooed upon him; the lion which represents himself and the God who is reclaiming his heart bit by bit.
I put the pen to the card and began to write the most simple prayer, It asked for courage and confidence to continue growing in him along with one or two other things. I hung it on the wall and took two others to pray over.
The next afternoon, Ronne and I were sitting in a coffee shop when we heard the news about Paris.
Heaviness filled us as we watched the updates in horror. She looked at me and we sat there, not speaking — whispering other prayers silently. I thought of those who were losing their lives — the ones who had been unaware their world was going to be upended and the ones who had given themselves so fully over to evil in disillusionment and deception.
I reached out to the man I had hung the prayer on the wall of Philanthropy for with a one word text — thick with pain, “Paris.” That’s all it said and over the miles his warrior heart rose up, its roar resounding. I knew it was sorrow — sorrow at the weight of darkness shoving it’s sword into the City of Light. And the following morning, he agreed when I posted a candle and these words, “Every time you grow the light, darkness is diminished. It is easy in these dark days to want to return the hatred invading our world with hatred of our own. Same for same, evil for evil, has only ever destroyed everything in its path. In our collective pain at what darkness has wrought, I challenge us all to respond with light and love that grows so strong darkness is diminished. There is more than one way to accomplish a task. Choose light. It’s what you were made for. Choose light.”
I was surrounding by down comforters, boxes of Kleenex, and good words as I nursed a cold which I had brought home from my trip. He was making preparations for his first day of work at his new job the next day when he sent me the text. Everything was feeling slightly off and anxiety was trying to reclaim its icy grip on him. “Today is the last day of Diwali,” I told him, “Light has already won and is winning.” I sent a picture of a candle I had just lit. I do this when someone I care about is going through a particularly difficult moment and I say a prayer when I do. “It started out very weak but I sat with it for a moment and now it is growing stronger and stronger.” The same was happening with him. He has been getting stronger — is stronger. I decided it was time to show him the present I had planned to give him soon. It wasn’t quite ready.
“This is it,” I said, sending him a picture, “It’s an antique key from a hundred years ago. It has a lion and the word Master on it. I’ll put it on a man appropriate chain. You can wear or not wear it, but you need the reminder.” I could feel the excitement in his words and he wanted to know where I’d found it, deciding immediately he would wear it. His fear had dissipated into nothing, “So much love right now.”
Love banishes fear.
That’s why we celebrate light winning. Even when we see with our own eyes the damage evil has done, we celebrate light. Do you know what the City of Light did the day after the terrorists attacks? They lined up to give blood — so much so they had to be told to come back next week because there were too many of them. And then they filled cafes and wine bars and restaurants as their usual routine. They continue living their lives REFUSING to live in fear. And one bookseller, after spending twenty-two hours at her shop where she and her co-workers sheltered other Parisiennes under the fading painted words, “Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise,” bought four sunflowers on her way home. The one who sold them to her whispered, “Some light in all that darkness.” Because we find it.
We will always find the light.
We press on. We use our words and our love to create instead of destroy. We find ways to push back evil with every ounce of light we possess. We are more than just cause and effect. Do you see? We are also choice. Choose this. Choose these. You can choose to be…
Light in the dark. Hope in the night. Love redeems story. I know. I’m proof.