God in the Dark: Theory

by Esther Hizsa

Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison…. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him… Genesis 39:20,21

It was lab day for our spiritual direction class. That meant we took turns giving each other spiritual direction. Our teachers called these sessions “real plays” because we were not role-playing; we shared what was really going on in our lives. And so I told my classmate, Joel, what was going on for me.

“I’ve tried three times to explain to this woman that there’s a problem and she just keeps ignoring me. I hate that,” I said. “If I confront her, I feel like I’m being too critical; if I don’t say anything I’m afraid it’ll happen again.”

Joel folded his hands and listened. “How does that make you feel?” he asked.

“Frustrated. A few years ago I never spoke up when things bothered me. Now I wonder if I speak up too much. I don’t know what to do.”

After a long pause Joel asked, “What is it like for you when you don’t know what to do?”

My stomach dropped and took my shoulders with it. I struggled to name what I felt. “Helpless, I guess.”

“Helpless.” Joel let the word sit in front of us. “Tell me what ‘helpless’ is like.”

“Awful. Like I’m stupid or don’t matter.”

“Was there another time when you felt like this?” he asked.

I thought for a moment. “Yes. When I was about five years old my older brother and sister locked me in a room—the curing room of the cheese factory my dad managed—and I couldn’t get out.”

“What happened?”

“I panicked. I screamed but they couldn’t hear me because the walls were so thick.”

“How did you get out?”

“I didn’t. My brother opened the door. Then they laughed at me and said, ‘All you had to do was push on the handle.’ I felt so stupid.” I took another tissue from the box on the table beside me and stared at the floor.

“Esther, do you ever experience something like this in your spiritual life?”

“Yes! Often I have a problem to solve and I cry out to God to help me and he just stands there with his arms crossed expecting me to figure it out.”

Then I looked at Joel and heard myself declare, “But that’s not God. That’s my brother. God isn’t outside the room laughing. He’s inside the room with me!”

Joel waited while I wiped my tears then said, “Can you picture Jesus in the room with you?”

I closed my eyes. “Yes, he’s with me and I’m a little girl.”

“Take a few moments to be there with him, “ he said.

At first I saw Jesus near me weeping because, when they shut the door, a wall as thick as the curing room walls went up between us. Then, the next minute, we were outside the room and he said, “Let’s go in again.” I didn’t want to do it, but I let him take my hand and lead me back into the room. This time, when we went in and the door shut, Jesus pulled me onto his lap and said, “Hey, look. I’ve got a lighter.” And he flicked it on. Then he said he kept a ball in there and we could play with it.

I smiled and told Joel what I saw. He smiled too and I felt full.

When our time was up Joel prayed, thanking God for this precious revelation of his love.

After a few minutes of silence our teacher invited us to talk about what we had experienced and observed. Long pauses bracketed each offering; no one wanted to disturb our sense of awe.

Finally Joel turned to me. “I’m just curious,” he said. “What are you going to do about that woman that keeps ignoring you?”

“I’ll likely say something,” I replied, “But at least when I do, I won’t hold her responsible for locking me in the curing room!”

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