“Follow the sound of my voice as we walk through the entrance to a grocery store.” With unsure steps, I inched through the darkness toward our blind guide. Though we’d just met minutes ago, I had to trust him completely. Not exactly my strong suit.
“Touch everything on the shelves,” he said. “See if you can identify the products.”
I shuffled forward with our Dialogue in the Dark tour group into a simulation designed to help the sighted experience blindness. The goal wasn’t for us to marvel at the abilities of the blind or pity them for the difficulties they face. The goal was to gain empathy. And, as we shed our world of pictures, to awaken our other senses.
As people dispersed into the darkness, I bumbled my way around, one hand grasping my cane, the other out in front of me. I didn’t trust the cane either.
Within seconds, I was lost. I didn’t even know in which direction the door was. I tried retracing my steps, but the maze of aisles had me trapped.
As promised by the brochure that had lured me in, I was far outside my comfort zone. Since I had no idea which way to go, I decided not to move until I heard the guide’s voice again. In the meantime, I’d test my other senses.
I picked up an item on the shelf. The cardboard box felt familiar. Pasta? I shook it and heard the rattle with a sense of accomplishment. But it was short-lived. What kind of pasta? Macaroni? I picked up another box and shook. Heavier. Deeper rattle. Penne?
In the middle of my maraca-shaking debate, I felt a gentle touch on my arm: “Mama?”
“Marcus! I can’t believe you found me!” My son was a superhero with a sixth sense–a genetic homing device–that enabled him to locate his mother in complete darkness! “You’re amazing!” I told him.
“Not really,” he said, linking arms. “I’ve been looking for you ever since the lights went out.”
Like the baby bird in P.D. Eastman’s classic, he had asked everyone he’d bumped into, “Are you my mother?”
God asks us to seek Him just as earnestly. When we’re in the dark, unsettled, unsure which way to go, He wants us to seek Him with all our heart (Jer. 29:13, Deut. 4:29). And He promises that He will not reject such earnestness: “you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Ps. 9:10).
I learned what it means to seek with all my heart in the darkness that followed our son’s second suicide attempt.
After his surgery to repair the nerves and tendons he’d cut in his wrist, I was allowed to spend the night with him in the hospital before his transfer to the psychiatric ward. Late that night when exhaustion overcame me, I crawled into the single bed with my 6’1” seventeen year old. With his cast raised up between us, I held him in my arms. While he slept, I cried.
I cried over his pain and the what if: what if he had succeeded? I cried over my inability to protect him from himself. I cried because I had no idea how to help him choose life.
I also prayed. For healing, for wisdom, for guidance, for trust, for peace, for strength, for comfort, and most of all, for hope. But as time passed, my prayer changed. For the first time, I understood what it meant to pray with all my heart, to have no other desire but one: “I need you, God.”
Angels didn’t appear. Bright light from heaven didn’t shine all around me. But I did suddenly notice the breath that tickled my arm hairs every time my son exhaled.
The noticing came with such intensity that I cried for joy over this sign of life. And I cried for the peace that came with the presence of God. For I knew with certainty that God was holding me just as I was holding my son.
When the guide called us to leave the simulated grocery store, Marcus and I fumbled our way toward the one who would help us navigate the darkness.
Toward the one who had been there all along, waiting for us to find him.
Such immediate response isn’t always the outcome when I seek God. Many times I’ve felt no sense of His presence no matter how desperate my cries. (See “From a Fog-Filled Valley.”) But I’ve learned–I’m learning–to trust that He is found, that He is present. Have you ever sought God with all your heart? Did you find Him?