Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Saturday, October 4, 2014

31 Days of Courage: Courage in Darkness and Silence

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”     ~ Helen Keller

She captured my imagination at the tender age of nine.  Helen Keller has wrapped herself around my heart, and I doubt a month goes by that I am not inspired by her courage and intrigued by her beautiful mind. 

At 19 months of age, Helen contracted a then unnamed disease (most likely scarlet fever or meningitis) that left her completely blind and deaf for the remainder of her life.  If you don’t want to take the time to read about her in a biography, I recommend the film “The Miracle Worker”, starring Patti Duke as Helen Keller and Anne Bancroft as her teacher and lifelong companion, Annie Sullivan.  It’s directed by the highly respected Arthur Penn, and has etched itself on the ivory of my soul like an artist scratching out scrimshaw.  Wonderful, beautiful motion picture.

Helen Keller’s writing and her thoughtful consideration of life’s complexities are startling when you consider she saw and heard NOTHING.  It was in complete and utter darkness and silence that she found her way to light and hope.  Even as I click away at these words I am humbled and awed by this woman’s courage and relentless optimism. I am convicted of my chronic complaining about my own dark corners when I think on what Helen's daily life must have been like. Simply climbing the stairs or fixing lunch were Herculean feats for a person with only 3 operational senses.

But in her dark, silent world Helen Keller changed the world by her words and deeds.  She bravely wrote in defense of the powerless while in the midst of her own powerlessness.  Not seeing, she saw the needs of those around her.  Not hearing, she heard the cries of the disabled of her day and became an early activist for them.

Every life has its own insignia of shadow and mystery.  What is it that is un-seeable for you now?  Is it an impossible way through a loveless marriage?  A prodigal child?  Debt the size of the Himalayas?  A deadly disease, a terrible addiction, a faithless soul?  Or just a sense that there’s no meaning or purpose to these 70 or 80 years?

Is God silent to you?  In the dark of night where no one sees, are you lost in a sea of unanswered prayers? 
There are no pat responses to any of these questions.  And God forbid I should make light of them.  But the Great One, He who created light out of darkness, He who spoke and broke forever the silence of the Universe, He understands all we don’t:

Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.  ~ Psalm 139:12

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. ~ Psalm 62:5

It takes tremendous courage to stand and believe in the stone cold silent darkness.  When all your comforts are removed and you swim in an ocean of confusion or sorrow, this is the birthplace of bravery. 

It is in these times that courage, that lovely virtue second only to humility (in my opinion), rises up and finds its place.  Helen Keller put it this way:

“We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.” 

She knows of what she speaks.

So if you are in darkness or silence, know that courage can be born and cultivated in that hothouse of trial.  And if you are not there now, how bout' being an Annie Sullivan to one who is?  To give courage is as precious as to gain it, and it is indeed added to your own soul as you give it away.

Persevere in the darkness.  It’s all light to Him.  And one day, at the end of this often dark ride, we’ll get the sight for which we’ve so longed, and hear clearly the Voice we’ve strained to hear.

I hope to see Helen there, eyes wide open. 

But really, were they ever not?

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


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