I have had many dark experiences in my life, from being a small child, and I believe that those experiences gave me a strength to deal with anything that came my way. When the chips are down you either sink or swim, and however painful and difficult something is, the life force is very strong within us and we strive for life. If someone is pushing our heads underwater we push back, trying to preserve our lives. We fight for life, naturally. I know this from when my mother tried to push my head into the water in the washing machine when I was 13. Terrifying though the experience was, something within me rose up almost in defiance and though the feeling of wanting to run away was very strong. We naturally want to flee from horrible things, and I did in fact want to run away, but of course, I could not as I had nowhere to go. Yet somehow or other I wanted to live. It was at that time in my life that, crucially, something completely unexpected happened to me. As a result of it, I found a new, more loving environment in the church down the road. Some girls had invited me to go to the Youth Club at the church with them. I enjoyed going very much indeed. I loved to dance, but also I loved to spend some time talking with the Deaconess there. I had always had an inquiring mind, and even as a very small child I had walked down the long lane from the farm where my grandparents lived, with my grandmother at nights, looking up at the night sky and asking where God was. I have no idea where I had heard of God, for I had not started school yet, and it was certainly not from my grandmother. However, as I looked at the thousands of stars in the sky I wondered where there could possibly be room for God. My grandmother told me that she didn’t know where He was but that He must be up there somewhere. As I was talking to the Deaconess I was attempting to fathom the mysteries of the Universe, until one week, quite suddenly the Deaconess stopped me dead in my tracks by saying,
“Lorraine God loves you.”
This was weird. I had never heard of anything like this before, and, after a while, during which I did a lot of thinking, I fell on it hungrily and thirstily. That helped me to get through what I was going through at home. Through this experience I learned to love myself and to see myself as someone of worth. It was the absolute antithesis to my mother’s way of thinking and being. It gave me strength. As I have gone through my life however, that simple faith has been tested and tried, and I have continued to wrestle and to question. When I had cancer I eventually found some comfort in it, though at the same time there was a battle going on between that faith and my rational mind. I had faced many questions regarding faith and suffering before, as I engage in doing a degree and then a Masters, then a Ph.D. in Theology and Philosophy. I knew that there were no satisfying answers, but something inside me yearned for that love that I had been told about as a 13 year old. I have always said that love is the oxygen of life. We cannot live without it. When I was 18 I went to a Teacher Training College. And we read that seminal book by John Bowlby entitled “Child Care and the Growth of Love” which confirmed for me what I already knew through experience, that love is the most essential of needs that we have. When I had cancer I did not have loving family and friends around me, and I had to wrestle with the idea of a God Who loved me. I wanted to be able to believe in one desperately, and maybe I did for a while, in order to get through. However, when the blindness really started to bite, I had many problems with an idea of a God, but I then began to explore the idea of the darkness of God
and God as darkness. After all, at the very beginning of everything there was only darkness. This gave me strength because it brought a God of darkness into my experience, where other human beings could not go. I was so lonely, living in a world where no one else lived. Everyone else inhabited a different world. I could no longer talk about their world, nor they mine. It felt as if all meaningful communication had gone. Things were okay if I could talk about the world as it exists for the fit and healthy and sighted, but if I attempted to talk about my world, people ran away.
Despite all this, however, I still pushed on up, like a shoot pushing up out of the dark soil, striving for life. I have experienced some very bad moments though when I have not wanted to live, and have contemplated leaving this world, but always, in the end, life won.