Light Into Darkness.

By Jason TheobaldJanuary 30, 2014

It was a Saturday “morning” in college, and I was in the cafeteria (I use morning loosely, as it was probably noon already). I remember I was not in the best place in my life. I was struggling a bit being away from home, away from people I cared about, adjusting to a foreign place, and figuring out who I was in a whole new environment with all new people.

I was sitting in the cafeteria of our school with a friend I had recently made when another friend of his sat down. This other guy, someone I’d never met before, introduced himself, and we began talking. After a few moments, my friend asked him to share his personal story. For the next 30 minutes, I sat enthralled as he told a story of falling into the deepest darkness, only to eventually be pulled back into new life filled with light. He told of addiction leading him down a path where he lost the things he had thought were the most important in his life, but how he eventually found a way to let hope creep in and bring him out into a new beginning.

For me, that day was a turning point. I couldn’t have pinpointed it at the time, but looking back, I can now see that something changed in me. From that day forward, I started to really believe that, no matter what happened in my life, the darkness could never win, that there was always hope. Through this friend’s sharing of his story, something that I had always known in my mind came into my heart and life in a new way: No matter how dark I felt, there would be a light just waiting to break through.

I think that’s the way light works. We can see it working in the real world. When we’re in a dark room, a small light is enough to allow us to see past the darkness to what is actually there. In our lives, a little hope—a bright spot of some sort—can light our way for days, months, and years. For me, this man and his story have illuminated my own life for a long time. I am convinced that I was changed that morning, and every day lives are changed when people share similar experiences.

So now I try to bring that light everywhere I go. I have had the incredible opportunity over the last few years to travel the country, whether to lead retreats, visit friends, or attend weddings. In these times, I have met countless new people—people filled with joy, people just getting along, and plenty of people struggling to find hope. When I meet any of these people, my goal is always to bring with me a little light. Whatever opportunity I have—whether I get to tell them a story of the triumph of light in my own life, or I just get to smile and tell them to have a nice day—my goal is to bring brightness into any shadows I encounter. I do this because I have seen the power that a tiny spark can bring, eventually shining into even the darkest of places, and I know that if I can do that for another person, it is worth it.

So for any who have experienced hope coming into the gloomiest places of our lives, let’s renew our efforts to carry that same light with us to every person we meet. For anyone reading this who presently sees nothing but darkness around you: Know there is always hope, and there are people and resources to help light the way for you. Sometimes, it’s going to start small—a quick conversation, a friendly glance from a stranger that says, “I see you, and I know you’re worth seeing.”  Sometimes, it’s going to find you when people invite you into their story in a school cafeteria. Sometimes, it’s going to be the right help, at the right time, when you most need it. But wherever the light comes in, look to it, cling to it, and share it. It cannot be defeated. 

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Comments (5)

  1. Mary

    Beautiful testimony…here is a song I have been listening to lots lately
    She wrote it for her nephew struggling with addiction…Keep up tge goid fight & burn bright!!

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  2. Nadia

    some of your works relate to the sleeping at last song “emphasis”. the chorus changes the second time in the song and it fits in a way.

    the smartest thing i’ve ever learned/but the sweetest thing i’ve ever heard
    is that i don’t have all the answers/is that i don’t have to have the answers
    just a little light to call my own.

    though it pales in comparison
    to the overarching shadows,
    a speck of light can reignite the sun
    and swallow darkness whole.

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  3. Bob Bendotti

    Jason–What a wonderful and inspiring message! Your advice is very much on target, particularly with reference to addiction. Would you mind if I shared your blog with Joey? I just know he would benefit from reading it. After losing Chris to addiction in 2015 my life changed forever. I struggled with depression and deep persistent grief. In fact, I still “re-visit” those feelings every now and then. I see Chris’s passing as a scar on my heart that will never fully heal. I won’t go into details but I saw Chris transformed from being a loving, kind, gentle and intelligent young man into I person I could barely recognize and who was incapable of making even the most common sense decisions. Late in his struggles I became aware that his addiction was a mental health illness and not simply a questions of will-power or just say “No”. But, that said, I still don’t understand the mental health issues he was struggling to resolve. There was such little evidence of his struggle in our day to day life then it felt like he just fell off a cliff. For me though, I never did give up hope. So, with respect to Joey, I hold on to the hope that he will be able to navigate his life to a positive place. Thanks for “listening”!

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  4. Bob Bendotti

    Hi Jason! Thanks for such a beautiful message. It touched my heart and reminded me of both Chris and Joey. Would it be OK if I shared your blog message with Joey? You description of the importance of “hope” reminded me of a line in The Shawshank Redemption, a movie both Chris and Joey enjoyed: “Hope is a good thing maybe even the best of things and good things never die.” After losing Chris to addiction I struggled with depression and persistent deep grief that still, three years later, emerges without warning. For me, the finality of his life was incomprehensible. And, my inability to save him still weighs heavily on my mind. His passing has left a scar on my heart that will never heal. All that said, it is God and my hope for Joey that sustains me and allows me to move forward. On a positive note, Brianna was married to a wonderful guy in April. Bri and Michael are expecting a daughter in November. I am excited about the positive energy that the birth brings to my life. Be well Jason and know how much your words are appreciated. Bob B

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  5. Bob B

    Dear Jason,
    I am so sorry that it was Joey’s passing that brought us back in contact. Few things touched me more than to see you struggle at his memorial service. Seeing and speaking with you reminded me of so many wonderful years in our old neighborhood. You guys were “best buds” and it was always wonderful to see you play together. I want you to know that about three years ago I shared your “Light into Darkness” post with Joey. Joey loved it and was very impressed with your insights, as was I. As I know you understand, losing Joey after losing Chris is 2015 has been and horrific experience. Both of them were good sons until opioids entered their lives in high school. Little did Mikii and I understand the road we would travel with them for the rest of their lives and ours. They were addicted for the remainder of their all-too-short lives. As parents Mikii and I did everything in our power to save them and bring them home. As you know, beating addiction is very difficult and delicate road to travel. For nearly 18 years the boys struggled to get well. During the entirety of that time Brianna, Mikki and me struggled as well. We learned that addiction takes all the joy and happiness the lives of the addicts along with the lives of those who love them. I describe the addiction experience as watching your loved one with a python wrapped around their neck. Every time Chris and Joey tried to escape their addiction the coils would tighten and ultimately suffocate them. It is absolutely heart-breaking to watch them try over and over again to get well. It may sound strange to hear a parent say how proud they are of their addicted child but that is how I feel after watching them try and fail time and time again. I can share with you that just before their respective deaths Joey and Chris expressed their strong desire to get well and re-join our family. And, both of them said almost the exact thing: “Dad, I don’t know how my life turned out the way it did.” Chris not only said that also said: “I am looking in the mirror and I can believe what I am seeing.” I can also tell you that both of them died lonely as a result of having lost contact with their “good friends” and surrounding themselves with friends who were also addicts and/or in legal trouble. Sorry for rambling Jason but I wanted to provide you with context. You were one of the “very good” friends who I know cared deeply about Joey as he card about you. I look forward to the day we are reunited and to see them pain-free and happy once again. As for you Jason, please keep “bringing the light”. Our world desperately needs light.

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