We continue to be covered in grey shadows here on the West Coast of Canada. Our unusually snowy winter is receding into memory yet the bright days of summer are still far away. Meanwhile, we linger in the shadowlands of spring with clouds at differing elevations casting varying degrees of light and shadow over the city. The flowers do not seem to mind this for they continue to push through the soil. The trees as well seem to be in communion with the shaded light of the sun for many buds are now yielding small leaves and blossoms. While the weather is cool and damp it is easy to abide with as long as one dresses for it.
Still, the greyness of it all does affect me. As I was walking this morning I remembered the movie Shadowlands, a beautiful story about the love between C.S. Lewis and his wife Joy Gresham who died too soon and too young. At one point in the movie, as she and Lewis were discussing her impending death, Joy says, “The pain then is part of the happiness now. That’s the deal.” Later, after her death, Lewis inverts this and says, “The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.” Both were struggling with how to live with the shadows of suffering and loss. Both accepted that happiness and pain, light and shadow, are mixed together within the human journey. Learning to live with both leads to spiritual maturity.
The memory of this movie came to me as I reflected upon my experiences of loss. Some of these losses have been relationships with others. But there have been other kind of losses too—work, meaning systems, homeland and so on. There is often pain in my experience of loss, sometimes accompanied by anger or melancholy. Sometimes my anger or sadness can cloud my view of life causing me to see the world as covered more in shadow than in light. Now it is true that there are shadows in our cultures, our institutions and our systems of thoughts, places where injustices and sin reside. But it is also true that there are shadows within me where I am unjust and where I ‘miss the mark’.
The shadows found in cultures, institutions, and systems of thought are best exposed and overcome through loving critique and accompaniment with others. Likewise, the shadows within me are best brought to light and healed through the love and friendship of others. I think that perhaps this is what Joy Gresham and C.S. Lewis knew, that their love for each other helped them to live with the shadows of the world and to heal from the personal shadows that can hold a person back from the fullness of life.
As spring deepens and the promise of summer beckons I am reminded that the world is filled with more light than shadow although it may not seem this way at times. The call is to learn to live with both pain and happiness and to explore our collective and individual shadows with the assistance and accompaniment of others. This is spiritual work. It is a work that must be engaged in if we are to move towards the light that comes within this one beautiful world.