Image by The Rusty Projector via Flickr
I could have sworn I had already posted this poem here on my blog, but I just searched for it in vain. And for some reason, I feel that I ought to post it now.
The Lord is bringing significant healing to my life, but I have a long way to go. And sometimes, especially for the sake of those who are still "in the valley," it is good to revisit the pain. Not for the sake of morbidity, but for encouragement. Because if God can bring me out of this valley, as deep as it was, He can bring anyone out of their valley too.
I wrote this poem back in 2006, when I had already been in my "valley" for about seven years. It took that long to be able to face the pain enough to put it into words.
The poem is about the time when my two-year-old son changed virtually overnight…from a seemingly normal toddler to an autistic stranger. It is called:
When Shadows Aren't Enough
Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…
My son is lost in that valley.
He died. He lives.
Two years old.
Tearing into Christmas presents
Voicing his thoughts with newly-learned words.
Adorable, squeezable, lovable, loved.
His words give way to screaming.
Endless, throat-tearing screaming.
Little body stiff in my arms.
Twelve, fourteen, eighteen hours each day
His shrieks rake my ears, shred my soul
Screaming, and screaming, and screaming.
Hands forget how they once played.
Now they flap before a stranger’s eyes
No longer willing to meet my own.
Sleep mocks me.
Nothing exists but screaming, and screaming, and screaming
And three little faces who look to me
To give them life
While I am dying.
I reel in this valley of death that is not death.
Through? There is no “through.”
I sink to my knees
But find no comfort there.
And no strength to rise again.
The air in this valley
Fills lungs with dust
Parches them with dread
Not the fear that death will come,
But that it will not.
“If You have any compassion at all
Be done with shadows which bring no relief!
Let this be simply the valley of death.
End it all. Please just end it all.”
Our breaths keep coming.
His rip the air with cries of torment.
Mine can only breathe, “I hate You, God. I hate You.”
Slowly the horror abates
But endless months in the shadow of death
Have transformed me into a shadow of life.
I am hollow.
Nothing remains of me.
I am without form, void, in darkness.
The Spirit hovers
He has little to work with.
The fragments He finds are seething with rage
He sings, and I weep.
I don’t want to, but I do.
He praises, and I feel it.
Sometimes I can even join in, feebly
Pushing the words out past thick clouds of fury.
I am so glad I still can.
Because if He is life
Then a shadow of life is not enough
Not in a place such as this.
I stagger to my feet
And risk a few unsteady steps.
For I do not hate life
Or the One who is Life
But only the shadow that hides Him from me
Here in this valley.
Now, the post script. Ten years after my son and I entered that valley together, God has restored both of us in ways I could never have imagined. Yes, my son is still autistic and bipolar. Barring a miracle, he always will be. Yes, he relies on powerful medications to keep him at a functional level of emotional stability. But he is a beacon of hope; a hopping, jumping, hand-flapping miracle who sings God's praises sometimes for hours on end. His growing faith is precious and inspirational. He is one of God's precious diamonds, and the gleam is already sparkling despite the surrounding coal.
What's more, God led me into that valley as a self-deceived lost person, someone who believed herself saved but had never been born again. He led me out of it as His daughter.
For many years I would have told you that I hated the valley, and that it was proof that God hated me. Now I would not trade it for anything. I'm glad it's in the rearview mirror, and I hope I never have to walk through it, or one like it, again. But if I do, may I remember God's faithfulness through it all, and may I be comforted by the knowledge that He brings the greatest good out of the worst trials.
And God grant that the same may be true for you.