We all have one, uniquely our own. They move, but don’t live. They respond instantly, but can’t see, hear, or communicate. They touch us but we feel nothing. The tiniest can’t be picked up and the largest take up no space.
Strange things, shadows. Since they were tiny, my grandbeans and I have played with them.
It took awhile for the children to recognize their own shadows. Something so ephemeral doesn’t fit well into the concrete world of a child. But then came shadow puppets at bedtime; shadow companions, cheering company on long walks; shadow duncecaps on each pebble at our feet. And one day they knew shadows. They recognized shadows. But they still don’t understand shadows.
Two of my grandbeans have named their shadows. Butterfly is cross at hers this week. I grinned as I read her mother’s Facebook status: “Tamika keeps following her around! AND has the indecency to wear the same clothes as her. She’s tried stepping on her, but it won’t make her go away. She’s tried turning around fast - same problem.”
Ever been mad at your shadow? How do you fix that? The child knows: Since Tamika only appears when the sun is bright, she has decided to stay out of the sun.
I have another answer for that little girl, one I learned a long time ago: Forget the shadows. Keep your face to the sun, and they’ll always stay behind you.
“There won’t be any shadows in heaven,” a pastor friend commented the other day, while several of us lingered over a late breakfast. His words startled me. I’d never considered heaven from that perspective, and it delighted me. The Bible does say heaven will have no need of ‘sun to shine by day, or moon to shine by night.’ That no darkness will enter that eternal space; that it will be suffused with clear, pure light. Non-glaring, non-extinguishable. Nothing can block it — for the light flows from the eternal Light of the World, Jesus Christ… the Son of God.
“But I will miss Lucy in heaven,” said the other shadow-naming grandbean, when I told them their would be no shadows in heaven. “NOT me,” said her sister, she who finds hers distressing (this week at least). “I won’t miss Tamika. She is my WORST best friend.”
“My worst best friend.” How like a child to unwittingly snare the truth we adults learn only by difficult experience: That in the deepest, blackest shadows of life, in griefs and losses and midnight wakings, in the dark patches we try so valiantly to push away — we begin to comprehend God’s nearness.
Got shadows? Keep your face to Heaven’s bright Son… Jesus Christ.