The other morning I was on the treadmill shuffling through songs on my iPod. In Kelly Clarkson’s “Darkside,” she sings, “There’s a place I know; it’s not pretty there and few have ever gone. If I show it to you now, will it make you run away? Will you stay even if it hurts? Even if I try to push you out, will you return?”
She also speaks truth when she says “Everybody’s got a dark side; nobody’s picture perfect.” We all have parts of ourselves that we would rather leave in the dark. Things that we live with in the dark, but know would be repulsive in the light. Things that we work hard to hide so that no one ever sees how ugly we are. The Bible actually calls it sin, missing the mark of perfection. And we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect best (Romans 3:23). Since Adam and Eve took their first bite of the forbidden fruit, everyone is born with a dark side.
The questions that Kelly asks in the song are the questions we all long to know the answers to: “Do you love me? Will you love me even with my dark side?” I’ve been in relationships where my sin has been exposed, and they have decided to walk away. My dark side was too much. I was too scary. In any relationship, you run the risk of being hurt. My dark side could come out and do some serious damage. It has and it probably will again. I want to know that I am worth the risk.
This is where pop culture and theology collide. As I listened to Kelly sing these words I was reminded of something I had read in Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child. “Only in a relationship of the deepest intimacy can we allow another person to know us as we truly are. It is difficult enough for us to live with the awareness of our stinginess and shallowness, our anxieties and infidelities, but to disclose our dark secrets to another is intolerably risky…The greatest fear of all is that if I expose the imposter and lay bare my true self, I will be abandoned by my friends and ridiculed by my enemies…I cannot admit that I have done wrong, I cannot admit that I have made a huge mistake, except to someone who I know accepts me. The person who cannot amidst that he is wrong is desperately insecure. At root he does not feel accepted, and so he represses his guilt, he covers his tracks.”
What I’m learning is that the only way to experience true intimacy in a relationship is to let them see your dark side. If you don’t, you are always questioning whether the other person just loves the pretty parts, the parts you know they will like and accept. We are afraid to completely be ourselves because the dark side just might scare them away. But when I know that someone loves me, that they will forgive me, that I am accepted and worth the risk, I am free to be completely myself. Only when I bring my dark side to the light can it begin to heal. There is no healing in the dark, only death. In order to heal, it must be brought into the light. In order to experience true, authentic love, it must be brought to the light. In order to be fully known and fully loved, it must be brought to the light. This is the path to the authentic relationships we all say we want. This is the painful path that my husband and I have walked together. He is Jesus “with skin on” to me.
Jesus came as the remedy for the dark side. Without the work of the cross, my dark side keeps me from the presence of a holy and perfect God. Darkness cannot dwell with the light. What happened at the cross was that God made a way for my dark side to be forgiven, for all my sin to be paid for. Because Jesus lived a perfect life and died an innocent death, there was a way for my sin to be accounted for, so that I could dwell with God in the light of his love forever. Jesus overcame the darkness when he overcame death. Because he lives, I can live in the light. Because I know that he accepts me, I can risk rejection in my human relationships as I learn to tell the truth.
Even if other people reject me, the truth is that Jesus decided that I was worth it. He saw my dark side, and he didn’t run away. He didn’t run, and so I don’t have to run away either. I can bring my sin to him knowing that it has been forgiven and always will be. I’m not too much for him; my dark side doesn’t scare him. When I run toward him instead of away from him, he reminds me who I really am, a beloved daughter, a Princess. He reminds me that I am uniquely designed for a specific purpose (Psalm 139:16); that I am not big enough or powerful enough to ruin his good and perfect plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11); that nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8:39). He reminds me that I can’t use up all of his grace and that I will always have a way back into his arms. He promises to stay with me. The only question is will I stay with him? Or will I let shame, guilt and fear push me back into the dark?
“You know that we’re worth it. Don’t run away. Promise you’ll stay.”
What would it take for you to share your “dark side”?