My first year of seminary was a lonely one. I was in a big city, 500 miles from family and friends, and within my first month of classes I slipped down a hole of despair and uncertainty regarding my sense of calling and identity.
The questions and anxiety were so pervasive that they often kept me up late, sometimes past midnight.
My only light for these late night sessions was a pine-scented candle. I wanted to set a prayerful, reflective tone for this time, because I was in great need of a sense that I wasn't wrestling with this stuff by myself. Whether or not I actually received an answer was second to finding assurance that I wasn't truly alone.
And so I'd sit on the floor of my dark apartment and watch the single flame cause shadows to dance on the walls. And I'd sit with the strangeness of my new physical surroundings and my upset spirit and wish and pray for peace.
I've experienced some familiar feelings this year, particularly as the autumn months have progressed and the air has become cooler and as the night settles in earlier. It's the same feeling that caused me to brood over a candle in the late hours and wonder where peace may be found. And like before, the unfamiliar and strange has brought those feelings back. The specifics may be different, but I've never felt such a strong urge to stay up late and watch the shadows dance to a soft light since those days.
Allie Brosh, the author of Hyperbole and a Half, has recently reappeared after a years-long absence that caused many to wonder about her well-being. She's been catching people up on her Facebook page, sharing hundreds of pictures chronicling where she's been. At one point, she said that one of the small things that gave her hope during a particularly hard couple of months was watching the red light on a nearby tower blink on and off late at night.
I knew exactly what she was talking about. That was me and my candle. Before that, I had my own radio tower lights that I'd watch. It's a strange little thing that may bring that inner peace, but whatever it is, once you find it you cling to it as best you can.
I may yet go back to watching shadows on the wall thanks to a single burning wick late into the night. If that's where I'll find a sense of peace and presence, then I'm willing to give it another try.