I has been dark for some time now. I have my belt of tools for the darkness and carry them with me: Mourning, fasting, prayer. But the night continues and I grow weary. I know that I stand in the darkness, but I am not born of it. I will not own it but I can feel it seeping into my skin even as I resist. It is difficult to believe the truth while I’m surrounded by the lies. It is hope that keeps me fighting. It is all I know to do.
Francis Scott Key wrote the star spangled banner while the American soldiers fought off the siege of the British fleet. It is the uncertainty of relief that makes the soldier’s endurance heroic. The night was dark for them as well. Dark and weary. It is not the danger that undermines their courage it is the weariness. It is the continual barrage that calls them to fight at their finest. Fight until there is no fight left. Fight either until they die or until the dawn. The fate of an entire nation held onto victory through the desperate, weather beaten fingers of a few men willing to last the night.
My fingers are weather beaten indeed and still I grasp, though my goal is not so clear. My enemy not so defined. It is the endurance, not the action that wearies me. The night is long. And it grows darker still. How tempting it must have been for those soldiers to compromise. In the lulls between barrages of canon fire and rain, how alluring sleep would feel then! How the quiet could be mistaken for victory and the battle lost for an early finish!
The opportunity for distraction from the fight was plenty for them, just as it is for me now. There is no shortage of distractions calling me to comfort instead of rest. “Indulge the pain, indulge the weariness and then you’ll find rest”. But it is not so. On the night the soldiers fought for Ft. McHenry they slept with one eye open. And so it is in the night: We rest for the purpose of the fight, not for the purpose of comfort. The night—the deep darkness at the peak of the battle—was not made for comfort or ease for those who choose to fight. If it were, there would be no fight—there would be no conflict…no purpose.
Fight this darkness I must. Fight it, or stand in it refusing to be dissuaded from the task at hand. Though other places, other fights less dark than mine, are open to me I must stand here. Stand here now or run away forever. I am born of the light and I was not born to run away from the darkness. Even though it gets darker and thicker, the lies seem truer; I will wait.
It is not the sound of canons or storms that the soldiers turned their ears to. It was the voice of their commander, barking above the fight. It is when the fighting is the most intense that his words are the most important. It was difficult for the soldiers to hear his voice. Was it the fear? The weather beaten minds of exhausted men? Maybe the sheer impossibility of the task overwhelmed them. Did they panic like I panic? I need to hear him speaking to me, speaking to how I need to change. No one knew that darkness could be so loud.
Only when the dawn came could Francis Scott Key look out over the harbor in Baltimore and see the flag still waving proudly, signaling the defeat of the British. The American soldier’s had victory over the night. When the fight was raging, in the darkest hours, they didn’t have the assurance of victory. In the night they only had the depth of the darkness and the hope of the dawn soon coming.
It feels as though it is getting darker. I don’t know how long this night will last. I must prepare to endure it until the very end. I have no other choice. I’m sure the soldiers felt that way too before the end. I will do now what they must have done then. I will take hope. Dawn will come. The extent of the darkness is proof of it. Because the night always seems darkest before the dawn.