Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.Psalm 23:4, KJV
It had been days. Between gluing my eyes to news clips and scrolling my phone for social media highlights, I entered into my own world of internal chaos and uncertainty. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I couldn’t handle what I was hearing, or so I thought. I watched. Prayerfully. Thoughtfully. As an empath and highly sensitive person, I had to give myself an extra dose of self-care because the images of sickness and suffering were becoming a bit too much. A new disease – well, new to me at least – was ravaging the global community. First I read reports about China, then Italy, then the United Kingdom, and so on. But it was absolutely undeniable: a virus that once seemed a millions miles away was now hitting much closer to home. The Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, was just beginning to make its presence known and felt in the United States. As reality hit, I found myself figuratively standing in a valley of the shadow of death. I don’t think I was the only one.
What would happen if we allowed ourselves to stand in the shadows long enough to see what’s causing them?
Undeniably, COVID-19 has revealed quite a bit about the greed, narcissism, and ineptitude of some government and corporate leaders. The pandemic has given me plenty of evidence, no matter how circumstantial, that there is still an unfortunate chasm between science and faith, leaving many souls in conflict about how to live out the tenets of their beliefs. And, COVID-19 leaves no doubt in my mind about the power of fear to drive people to the edges of insanity, individualism and survival at the expense of our fellow-humans. To this day, I don’t understand hoarding toilet tissue or clearing all of a particular food item from a grocery store. These, ladies and gentlemen, are what I call the shadows. These are the matters of heart and mind that can so easily hide the goodness and grace in this life and world around us. But what would happen if we allowed ourselves to stand in the shadows long enough to see what’s causing them, and then using our power and abilities to dismantle them?
A shadow is nothing more than hidden light. And where there are shadows, there is always light that, when no longer blocked, leaves us standing in truths once hidden. What would happen if we were courageous enough to breakdown every barrier one-by-one so that the light could shine unhindered? This light – these truths are the ones that forever transform us, that force us to evolve. Once we know, we can never “unknow.” We can only choose to be forever changed, or to live out the rest of our days with this nagging little voice in the back of our minds reminding us of truths we try to ignore. Such torment!
At the end of the day, we all have to walk through some valley of shadows, sometimes even shadows of death. A common thread that links humanity is adversity. Likewise, because of the shortcomings of humanity, the other thread that links us is grace. Adversity is not a choice. It is an inevitability as long as we live. But in it we are given the gift to choose how we allow it to impact us. Perhaps the valleys of shadows (even the shadow of death) are invitations for us to more diligently seek the light. We are given the gift – the opportunity – to allow adversity to open our eyes and face the shadows, to break down the barriers, and to allow the light to wash over us in metamorphosis. No doubt, this takes courage, innovation, and yes – faith. I have come to understand that my resilience is not the result of adversity itself, but rather in my choice to surrender to the potential of each experience to drive me one inch deeper into the grounds of truth, love and grace.
It is my sincere prayer that as we are in the valley of shadows (especially shadows of death), we won’t become paralyzed in fear. Robert Frost once said, “The best way out is through.” Therefore, I pray that we find guidance in the Rod and comfort in the Staff to keep moving through – breaking down the barriers of light as we go.