When a person experiences trauma, parts of the heart feel ripped loose, shattered, and blotted out.The soul is ravaged by the evil brought to it by another. Violation floods and seeps through every wall and into every corner of the heart. Chaos and desolation chase longings, hope, and comfort away. Sometimes they’re violently thrown out into the streets by our own hands. We feel betrayed and shadowy suspicions fuel a state of lonely hyper-vigilance. If the heart were like a house, it would no longer be a whole structure, and the house would no longer feel like a home. Longings tiptoe back up the steps only to be chased away. Yet darkness, in its many forms, soon enough moves in and spaces meant to hold goodness and blessings instead house marred creatures that shun light and warmth.
After a time, maybe days or years, one might dare to evict some of the darkness. Little by little, over and over the work can be done to rid the house of these toxic inhabitants. The house can be cleaned and repairs can begin. Eventually the longings, hopes, comforts, pleasures, joys, and so much more are dimly remembered and dearly missed in the big empty spaces of the house. The keeper of this house now has a choice to either continue hiding in fear, or light a candle for each one, hoping and waiting and watching for each one to return.
As I was helping to decorate our family home for Christmas this year, I felt a deep parallel between adorning our home to cherish this favorite season and what it would mean to prepare my heart for a similar celebration. My heart has been a shadowed and abandoned ruin for too long. My mind and heart live neither here nor there, but someplace, anyplace that is far away from the immense pain in my story. I’ve grown too skilled at slamming the door and posting signs to keep everyone away. I don’t want to live like this, and it is not what I was created for.
This Christmas season I find myself wanting nothing more earnestly than I want to more completely recover kindness, beauty, tenderness, and compassion for myself. I wish someone could wrap up the tender and loving heart I once had as a very young child and tuck it beneath our tree. And actually, I think someone can, I am daring to believe that Jesus can restore to me what I am longing for.
I am dwelling in a new season of finding freedom to ask God for blessing and restoration.
My heart is rapt with anticipation and trepidation as I light candles in my heart for the return of such vulnerable longings. It is hard to be brave, grieving and desiring lost things. My heart must stay present in both the sting of remembering loss and the risk of wanting something better. Longings cannot be forced to hurry or demanded to come to fulfillment. Each longing must be sweetly held, continuously invited, and permitted to grow. I have experienced this to be a deeply uncomfortable and at times a very scary thing to do. However, the returning of a longing is a joyous and life changing event.
This enveloping desire to reclaim the goodness God has for me compels me to sit undistracted in His presence. The past several weeks I have been more present in my life than in all the years before, I ask myself why and how this is happening. And the answer is hope. I have a story of tremendous harm, but I also have a story with an enormous capacity for hope. I am coming to believe, even anticipate, that good things are ahead. I have experienced that not only will longings come back when I light a candle for them, but they will flourish and create an irresistible desire for life. Instead of numbing and wishing away all the hours in my day, I want to hold the moments one by one and not miss a thing. I want to paint with all the colors and smell all the flowers. I am learning that, for me, being present doesn’t always mean only feeling all the horrible soul rending experiences I have known, it can also mean feeling life and joy greater than I have ever imagined. Therefore, I will continue to light candles in the windows and adorn my heart in celebration of what will be restored to me. I want to become who I was intended to be despite what evil has taken from my life.
What lost treasure will you light a candle for tonight? What is your heart anticipating in this advent season?
Emma Casey is a multifaceted combination of childlike whimsy and battle hardened warrior endeavoring to reclaim the best of both. Living in the remote mountains of Colorado, while she’s tinkering on her motorcycle, playing with her horse, or lounging with her corgi, she’s cautiously exploring the possibility of the restoration of desire and joy. She loves classic literature, all things Disney, and playing games with her family.