Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Darkness and fog

Oh, God.

It's been a horrible few weeks. Not life in general, horrible, but the me-and-you thing; coming here and exchanging the time of day, having something to say - it's just not been there. 

It still isn't. I've been sitting here for more than an hour and I am tap tapping at the keyboard right now just trying to hang onto the fact that you're still exactly where you've always been, even though I'm not quite sure where I am. 

Lord, I was in church on Sunday and we sang a song together and I can't remember what the song was or how it went, but it had a line in it about darkness. 

Something like, 'The darkness shall fear', I think. 

Darkness in this context clearly meant satan, the devil, evil in general or an absence of you. (I think I hedged my bets nicely there). What occurred to me, is that I am all too familiar with darkness. 

Darkness can be a comforting thing, I think. At night, I like it dark. I don't sleep well in light - I'm a thick curtain sort of girl. We used to live in a wonderful barn-conversion with a roof window right over the bed and it drove me mad. There was no blind or curtain and I resorted to draping my dressing gown over a roof beam to try and blot out some light so that I could sleep past dawn in the summer months. 

No, dark for sleeping is good. 

It's darkness at other times that I struggle with, and there seems to be a lot of it about at the moment.

It's autumn, and I make no secret of the fact that I find this time of year depressing. Yes, I can appreciate the beautiful colours, and I have my fair share of lovely photographs. I like the days when it's bright and crisp and there's a blue sky and some sun and a nip in the air (though I like days like that better in spring).

I know all about things having to die back to rest and gather strength for new shoots etc etc but look, I'm just not an autumn person. It's dark too early in the evenings, it's cold and dank and death and decay are everywhere. And I don't like draughts or Halloween. And orange is my least favourite colour. 

Did I come across just a bit petulant, there? 

In church on Sunday there was something more than the time of year on my mind. I've been struggling to concentrate, recently. It's as if my mind has been full of fog. Countless times in the last month I've been sitting here in front of the same computer that has been my close friend for several years and all of a sudden it's been cold and unwelcoming. I've done far more Facebooking and general surfing than I've done in ages. I've stared at blank documents until my eyes have stopped focusing and I've given up and gone to put the kettle on. 

Fog. Darkness. Confusion. Inability to concentrate. I look at the time I've wasted and become discouraged and depressed.

This darkness is a dense, insidious thing that wraps itself around me like the softest of shawls. It snuggles in close and at first look it seems to be a safe, insulating thing. It muffles and envelops. It's constantly moving and shifting shape and after a while I realise that I'm not hearing anything external, only the voices that are in my head already, that seem to be best mates with the fog on the outside. They whisper and nag and point out things to me.

There are several voices in there. 

Sympathetic:

'You've got too much on your mind, no wonder you can't concentrate.'
'Just give up for now. You're not in the right frame of mind.'

Accusatory:

'You're pathetic. You'll never get anything done.'
'Have you seen how much time you've wasted?'

Discouraging:

'There's no point starting now, there's not enough time left.'
'You have no ideas, no inspiration.'

Defeated:

'May as well give up. This is never going to work.'
'Why did you even think you could do it?'

...and others. But they echo in the darkness inside my head and I can't hear anything else. There used to be voices that encouraged me, cheered me on, made me hope for the best, believe, dream big dreams, but when the deadening darkness is there with it's arms wrapped around me, those voices can't make themselves heard. 

Yes, I realised all this as I stood and sang that forgotten song on Sunday morning. I saw the darkness wrapped around me. Soft and fluffy and even a little bit inviting - to start with, and then after a bit it penetrates deep to my bones and makes me cold and shaky and uncertain.

It's not black, this darkness. It's more grey, like storm-cloud grey. It's constantly moving, hugging, shifting, enveloping. 

I have a very bad habit of chewing my fingers and they're bad at the moment. I've been wanting to get a grip on what I eat but I'm feeling the need for comfort food more than ever. I have always found writing is a freeing thing, a wonderful way of working through problems, of capturing ideas and pinning down memories and, most importantly, meeting with you, Lord God, and yet for weeks now it's been oppressive and fearful. It has always brought me clarity, and yet when I'm in most need of it, I can't do it. 

Writer's Block? Ha. It's such a cliche, isn't it? Someone suggested to me that I had 'Writer's Block' and they even said it in inverted commas. Maybe that's it, but I think it's more than that. Here's what I think, in my foggy, muddled way:

I had an idea. I want to write something, and I want it to be for your glory. I want people to read it, and be encouraged and inspired. I told a few people about my idea and they were interested and told me that I should go ahead. I should go ahead and write it, and they would help in any way they could.

I felt excited and expectant and energetic. Full of hope, I had a new purpose and so many ideas that I couldn't get them all down fast enough. I have books and Post-It notes and notebooks and scraps of ideas all over the place. 

I thought I might actually do something.

Then the fog rolled in. 

I don't think that's a co-incidence. I don't think it's by chance that a million little jobs that have surfaced that need attending to on the days that I had set aside to get on with my idea. 

But then the voice (I think it belongs to 'Accuser', though it might be 'Discourager' - they're all the same), it says, 'You've got a big opinion of yourself, haven't you? Why would you or your writing be any sort of threat?'

And I'm back to square one. 

Why bother?

Lord, please tell me that I'm not the only person this happens to? I've read part of this little rambling back and I think I sound quite mad. 'Voices' in my head and the arrogance to put my own lamentable lack of discipline down to demonic interference... 

But I think I know about the fog.

Take it away, Father God.

May your light shine so brightly that it burns away to nothing like mist after sunrise.

Help me to shake it loose, Lord, and think clearly.

I want to hear your voice - the one that builds and creates and encourages and enables and equips, instead of those that make me feel bad.

I think that the fog is robbing me of tools that you put into my hands. It saps strength and corrodes determination. Steals confidence. Takes all these things and replaces them with heaviness, weariness and confusion.

It muffles, stifles. Lord, it stops me from seeing you, hearing you, sensing you here right next to me. 

'He wraps Himself in light
And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
And trembles at His voice...'*

Speak, Lord God, and the darkness will tremble.

Rescue me, as you have so many times before. I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to get to this place. I've been immobile, wrapped up for too long listening to the wrong things, letting them seep into the heart of me and sap my strength. 

I'm not going to stay here any longer. 

I'm going to get moving. 

'How great is our God
Sing with me
How great is our God'*

Amen.




* 'How Great is Our God' by Chris Tomlin, 2004 Sixsteps Records/Sparrow Records

16 comments:

  1. In one sense it sounds horrid to say that I dearly love this post because I know it represents frustration and doubt and all the fog entails. Yet, I love it because it is so.very.where. I. am and where I have been. I want to get moving as well. Let's do this thing, friend across the sea.

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    1. Thank you, Ginger. That means so much. I was starting to think I was going mad. Let's do it.

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  2. Yes. Absolutely. I know this too. Especially the bit where you wonder if the devil is threatened enough to try to mess it up, and then laugh at yourself for having the idea that you are big enough to threaten Satan with your tiny fists.
    Here's the secret, though. You're not big enough - but your writing is, because God is. Writing is like a magnifying glass on the soul, and God is in there. And you are an excellent writer, Helen. If I were Satan, I'd run screaming, gooshing out great black clouds of fog behind me like a retreating squid.
    And with that charming image...I shall go back to banging my head against my own desk. Let's do it!

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    1. Exactly. That's a really vulnerable moment, when you think 'I am a threat!' then the little voice whispers, 'You've got to be kidding?'
      Thank you for your reassuring words and wonderful images. The magnifying glass on the soul is beautifully wise, but the satan/squid one is a corker. That's going to be how I imagine him from now on.
      Let's do it indeed.

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  3. I reassure myself that whatever I see (or do not see); God sees in the dark. He sees you and me even when we see only darkness - for darkness is as light to him (cf Ps 139).

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    1. Lucy, thank you. You're the second person to mention Psalm 139 to me. I am going back to it right now.

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  4. Helen, this place you've inhabited feels strangely familiar. I usually blame it on M.E fatigue and brain fog. But when it pulls us down low in every way, stifling all positivity and inhibiting our creativity, we can be pretty sure it's the Discourager at work. The enemy of our souls seeks to trip us up at every turn and so often we lay out the welcome mat. He wouldn't bother us so much if we had nothing valid and valuable to bring to the Kingdom. You are a gifted writer. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise - least of all yourself!
    Looking up to God, giving praise, and remembering He is the One in charge is a good way to begin moving out of the fog. I love how positively you end this post. Rather as David encouraged himself in the Lord during a psalm of lament, you are lifting heart and soul to remind yourself where your help comes from. And soon, the mists will clear. Darkness cannot stand in the Light; it HAS to flee.
    Standing with you, my friend. Yes, let's do and be all God is calling us to be as women, wives, mothers, writers and people with Kingdom purpose running strong through our veins! Xx

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    1. Joy, thank you. I'm sorry it's familiar because it's no fun, but it's so reassuring that I'm not lost in some strange place and going quite mad. the warmth of people's response to this post has helped so, so much.
      The welcome mat - oh yes. I start to believe that there's no point trying, that there's nothing to say, and a million things come crowding in. You're speaking the truth there.
      Thank you so much for your wisdom and encouragement, as always. It's good to stand together.

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  5. Like you say, Helen, it's amazing how the fogs rolls in whenever we have inspiration or are determined to work towards a big dream. Keep going ducks. You are clearly on the right track. Don't let that enemy of our souls stop you in your tracks. God has stuff for you to write that no one else can do.

    Oh and by the way, after our Facebook 'conversation' the other day, I have been inspired to kick my butt back into gear, sit down at my laptop each morning and WRITE!

    Keep going x

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    1. Thanks, Mandy. It makes so much difference to hear 'Me too' on something like this.
      So glad that you're writing! Go Mandy!

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  6. Well, here's the flip side to procrastination, and Praise the Lord it has been written down: we are a threat when we CAN write, so our minds are clouded so we CAN'T. I think that's true. I am utterly, utterly weary and have a lot of insomnia right now. I slogged away publicising Baby, Baby, and didn't get enough votes to be in the top 3. I am exhaustedly attempting re-writes on the early parts of the follow-up, having spent the summer working on all that PR. I notice something else: all of us who have empathy with Helen's post are WOMEN. We need to pray for each other and to be delivered from this morass or swamp or whatever. Let's pray, and hope, and beat it with the help of the Holy Spirit. (And yes, I don't go much for Autumn either, a sad, damp, season like we're sliding into a dark hole - shall be so glad when the clocks go whichever way they do in March... and roll on Easter...) With love, Clare

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    1. Thanks, Clare, for finding the energy to comment - yes, we definitely need to look after each other.
      And roll on spring!

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  7. Helen this is a beautifully written post and I hope that through writing it God's light begins to shine through that fog - even in clarifying and admitting that you feel this way and that is isn't what you want to be like is a good start. I seem to experience this every time I step out in faith on a new project or direction and it can almost make us give up on it completely...you seem to already have worked out that that is what Satan is trying to make you do. What God has planned He will carry out...Keep going lovely lady.

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    1. Thank you. It's so reassuring to find out that people understand. Keep on keeping on.... thanks so much for reading and leaving such an encouraging comment.

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  8. Helen,

    You are most definitely NOT mad. I am sure many, many can relate to your story, including myself. I may write a post on my blog in response, as it is something that God has been speaking to me about. Many are suffering in the shadows, with fear of saying 'me too', fear of being judged for being real in the battle. Life is beautiful and messy.

    I want to thank you for writing what you are feeling. Be aware of the accuser's tricks for he doesn't like to lose. Stick God's armour on, come back here and read the comments as much as possible, so you can answer back with confidence that God enabled you to write this for His glory.

    It's horrible to go through, but I am so thankful and in awe of how our Lord's Victory wins every time, answering hopelessness with the One who is Hope, who overcame in Love.

    Lord, I stand with my friend Helen. I want to thank You that You enabled her to write this post for Your glory. I ask in the name of Jesus, please cover her with Your protection, shield her with Your hedge of protection, hold her in Your palm. We know that the enemy only attacks when he is scared and he should be for the Victory alone belongs to You, the Lover of our souls. I praise You for Your Son is the Hope of the World, for He is the Light of the World. I thank You for Helen, for who you created her to be. For the love You poured within her, for how You are moulding her for Your Kingdom. I pray please encourage her heart. Pour Your blessings upon her and her family. Guide her through this time of fog, For wherever we are, You are there. Show her Your glory today. Open her eyes to delight in You and feel her heart and head being lifted with Your light shining upon her. Thank You.
    Amen

    Blessings and prayers.

    Anita x

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    1. Amen, and amen. Thank you for that lovely prayer and for the 'Me too' and for the kind words and encouragement. It means so much.
      Bless you, my friend.

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