This morning I was reading a blogger who was commenting on the hard work of facing our own inner 'basements' which I took to mean the parts of ourselves and our own experience that for one reason or another are difficult to face, unpleasant, or scary. I wrote a response to the post because it made me think about the things that I sometimes try to avoid.
Here's a somewhat extended version of what I wrote:
When I was young, my grandparents lived in a big brick house with a very dark basement. It was full of strange, dim objects and musty shadows. For a small child, it was a rather fearsome place. But I remember the day it changed for me to something different. It was the afternoon I spent down there with my grandmother washing clothes on the old wringer washer. I was only 6 and although I can't imagine that my assistance rinsing the clothes made things any more efficient, they were certainly more enthusiastic (and probably wetter as well.) But she smiled and nodded and helped me to keep my fingers clear of the rollers.
And then, not long later, there was the hot summer afternoon spent in the dim coolness of that basement with my grandfather making ice cream, pouring in the ice and salt.
And the evening with my uncle. He was building something at the workbench. I was most likely busy getting in the way.
After that, the basement was filled more with mystery than with terror and the strange smell of mildew, detergent, and dirt became familiar, and even comforting, rather than alien and worrisome. Sometimes I would even go down there by myself, curious, poking around in the dark corners, discovering long lost treasure.
Two years ago, when my grandparents moved out of that house, the last thing I did before I left for the airport was to stand by myself on the stairs to the basement. I closed the door behind me and stood in the darkness smelling the musty air and saying goodbye to the old house. I think I'll always remember that minute in the dark.
So what can be said about our own personal basements? It's obvious from experience that the dark places sometimes stay dark and the shadows will occasionally remain. Not everything is meant to be bright and shiny, I guess.
But I believe in the reality of redemption and I believe that, like a little seed, life must take root in the depths before it explodes full of promise into the light. I believe that basements are really beginnings, foundations for all the rest of the house that towers above.
And, one more thing: I believe that taking someone with you down those scary steps can make all the difference in the world.