You must make friends with the shadow or you will die.
A simple sentence written on a marvelous, sunny day in the Sinai desert. You must make friends with the shadow or you will die. I continue to be amazed (although not particularly surprised) by the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that messages I gathered while on pilgrimage continue to follow me home.
The contrast of landscape and weather between fall in the Pacific Northwest and anytime in the desert couldn’t be much greater. We are experiencing deluges of blowing rain. My feet are already threatening to grow webs and the shadows come in the form of muted grays everywhere instead of pockets of charcoal tucked inside sun-soaked rock formations. It is a time of transition from one season to another, from Africa to North America, from spaciousness to city, from ancient wisdom under each footstep to modern tugs for my attention at every turn.
I had a particularly difficult week last week and fortunately already had a session scheduled with my spiritual director. I went in with blank check in hand hoping she had more free time available, because I was certain I needed to spend the day unpacking with her. Alas, we kept to our hour session, but the work continued long after I left her home. Stopping at a nearby park, I pulled out my journal and while watching the turning leaves drift across my path, I let the words flow onto the page. Somewhere tucked inside the outpouring were these words: “Face my own shadows – aloneness – failure – incompetence.” I might as well have added “or you will die.”
Leaving Volunteer Park, I went the “wrong way” and while circling back around, I saw a beautiful golden retriever tied to a post where he was surrounded by lunch pails and pint-sized jackets. He was clearly the watcher for his children who were inside the building doing their own exploring. My heart tugged and I automatically pulled the car over and got out to greet him. He was the risen image of my dear old boy, Curry. He let me pet his coat and stroke his belly as if we’d been old pals forever. I gazed into his chocolate brown eyes and for a moment was lost in time as his unconditional love washed over me. Tears formed as I remembered the grace and care my companion of 13 years had offered to me without reservation. Curious to know who I had just met, I reached under his neck for his dog tags while asking, “What’s your name boy?” Turning over the silver medal, the name appeared in bold letters: SHADOW.
Need I say more? The message was clear to me – my own shadows long for unconditional love and care. They don’t deserve to be dismissed or shoved aside just because they’re uncomfortable. Desert? Rain-soaked earth? The message is still the same. I must make friends with my shadow or I will die.
Today I invite you to consider the places tucked in the shadows of your being that are waiting to be befriended. Today would be a great day to give your shadow a little light – no matter where you live ☺.