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500+ for 50 – day 36: seeing the light

It’s Friday, the sun is shining bright here in North Carolina, and I could not be more thankful to be alive.  Today I woke up in a comfortable bed next to the love of my life feeling healthy and ready to take on the world.  Sure, it’s been a long week and I could very easily allow myself to groan with the leftover aches from a physically and mentally demanding schedule that’s behind me.  But I’d rather choose to be grateful for those experiences instead.  What a gift it is to be in a position to take on all that life chooses to throw at you.  What a blessing it is to have a roof over my head, to have nourishing food to eat and clean water to drink and bathe with every single day of my life.  My heart is full, and I lack nothing.

I can recall memories of darker periods in my life when I was blinded by fear, anger, sadness, and resentment…times when I was unable to rise with any appreciation for the new day ahead whatsoever.  It pains me to think of how selfish I became in those moments.  I remember when I was living in California during my sophomore year of college.  I was facing some of the most dreadful anxiety and panic that I had ever encountered.  My life was spiraling quickly out of control.  And I hated the thought of tackling each new day ahead.  Southern California is an area of the country that is fortunate to receive a lot of sunshine, and I used to curse the beams of radiant light that would pierce through the panes of the sliding glass door in my apartment each morning.  I didn’t want to see the light.  I only wanted to stay in bed and sleep the day away.  I prayed for rain.  Living was not something I embraced but rather it was something that I feared.  I found it very difficult to be thankful for a life that was seemingly causing me so much pain.

When you live a life ridden with fear, you learn to adapt to the physical symptoms that you begin to embody as a result of your persistent anxiety.  One of the more common complaints of anxiety sufferers is their sensitivity to light.  When a person’s fight or flight response is triggered and adrenaline begins pumping rapidly through the bloodstream, the individual’s pupils will dilate to allow the mind to react abruptly in those moments of conflict.  Most people respond accordingly to the perceived threat, and then their senses calm so that they are able to restore themselves to a more even plane.  But for individuals like me who suffer with severe panic and anxiety, we remain on high alert with great regularity.  So it’s not really a shocker that I was not a proponent of the sunshine during those trying times in my life in California. 

The sun was never a soothing sight for me when anxiety was assuming control of my world.  Even if I was feeling more stable heading into the day, if had to look directly into the sun during my ride to class, I’d begin to feel the panic well up within me.  I couldn’t live without my sunglasses serving to temper the radiance coming from the sky above.  Over time it was as though my body had grown accustomed to reacting with fear to any light that presented itself.  The sun became a trigger for my panic disorder.  I remember feeling like I was allergic to light at times.  It created such a threatening environment for me.  Yet it was something that I had always appreciated prior to the day that fear began to take over my life.

Light and darkness are two terms used symbolically throughout Scripture to depict the battle between good and evil.  You’ve probably heard people say before “step out of the darkness and into the light”.  In other words, rid yourself of your sinful ways, seek forgiveness, and live your life according to God’s calling for you.  I understand well enough now that there truly is a war being waged between darkness and light.  The darkness embodies feelings of lack, anger, resentment, pain, and sadness while the light is characterized by the emotions of gratitude, joy, hope, grace, and opportunity.  When you become afflicted mentally, it can be very difficult to live in the light.  You may feel that you are almost incapable of handling it, and the darkness will beckon you to remain in the comfort of your misery forever.  You simply can’t serve two masters.  So if you’ve chosen to cater to the needs of your addiction or your affliction, you will likely resent the presence of any light calling you to the window. 

Many people will fight determinedly to remain in the darkness just so that they never need to address the light that so desperately desires to direct them towards a more fruitful, healthier approach to life.  I know this to be true, because I was one of those individuals.  Although I was struggling mightily, I refused to turn to the radiant skies above for any guidance or direction.  My soul had been corrupted by darkness, and the evil that had taken root simply did not want to let me go.  My eyes were not prepared to see the light as they were too sensitive to handle it.  I had spent my days isolated in the darkness for far too long.

But thankfully, as I began to form a deeper relationship with my Creator, as I began to take responsibility for my life, to seek forgiveness for the ways of my past, and to surrender my future to Him I began to be able to better handle the beams that beckoned me.  And in time, I was able to step fully into the light with arms AND eyes wide open.  That’s the moment that my life truly began its transformation.

Today, radiant sunshine is no longer a trigger for fear within me but rather it’s a symbol of my life’s renewal through Christ.  When I see the light peak through my window each morning, I’m reminded to be thankful for how incredibly far that I’ve come.  Now that my eyes can see the beauty of all that I had overlooked in the past, I hope that I never return to the darkness again.  It’s truly a joy to live in the light. 

May God Bless!

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