In my ongoing quarterly visits to my oncologist and in my frequent visits to the lymphedema center, I have noticed a phenomenon that has fascinated and intrigued me. On every single visit to these places where terminal or chronic illnesses are treated, one or more cars in the parking lot have either left lights on or doors open. I remember the first time I noticed it two years ago, at the lymphedema center for my first 8 week intensive treatment. For 48 days of those 8 weeks, I had to physically go to the medical center for long sessions of painful treatment. On every one of those days, I noticed it and I was mesmerized by it. And then again at my first post-surgical oncology appointment and every one since (there have been too many to count)… there it always is, again. One or more cars in the parking lot, with lights left on or doors left open, with no one to be seen in or around them. As if not only the physical, but the emotional effort of getting from the car to the inside of the building was all that the person could give that day – anything else was just too much. As if the person just disappeared into whatever storm he or she was facing.
From the first time I noticed this pattern, I immediately understood it. I remember the day after my diagnosis going to Publix and buying two bags of groceries. I paid and walked away without my change or my bags. The cashier chased me down in the parking lot and asked me if I was OK. Unable to form words to answer her question, I robotically accepted the money and bags. Those first days after the Worst Day Ever, I remember just walking blindly as though I were watching a movie of my life, but not actually in it. Functioning, but completely numb and in a sense, unconscious and outside of my own body. Leaving my car keys in the refrigerator, or my debit card in my sock drawer, or my keys in the front door. Operating in the physical world, but not actually present in it. Broken, lost, terrified, and disappearing into some other place to escape my current reality.
This movie of my life, the one that when darkness falls sometimes feels like I’m watching from the outside, leaves me, too, forgetting to turn off lights and close doors. Maybe I’m afraid to be trapped in the dark unable to find the light again. Or maybe I’m in fear of being locked behind the closed door of the dreams I once had for myself, so I leave the door open.
But then He comes. My Shepherd comes and finds me and says that I don’t need to leave the lights on and doors open. Because He is the light in the darkness and He is the doorway to hope. That I can enter back in to the real earth-story because He is the story. Because He is the greatest and truest story ever told, and His story is mine.
He tells me that I don’t have to escape from my broken body because He dwells in it. It’s safe here.
I wonder if they know – those others who do what I have done. Do they know it’s safe to turn to light switch off and to latch the door? Do they know that the Voice that calmed the raging sea holds them in their fear? Do they know that He loves them?
Maybe, just maybe the next time, I won’t be in such a hurry. I will wait for them to return to the light left on and door left open and tell them that it’s OK. That they can relax and find peace. That by simply calling out “Jesus” and finding rest there, He will always leave lights on and open doorways to hope.
If I don’t tell them, who will?