Over a cup of coffee my friend Katherine and I had the joy of meeting up with a man named Ron Dart, who is a professor at the University of the Fraser Valley (department of philosophy, politics and religious studies). He spoke to us about how character is forged during the hard times of suffering--the dark night of the soul moments when it feels like God has abandoned his children all together. He brought a fresh perspective to the purpose of pain and how we cannot "sanitize" ourselves from pain--it is as much a part of our lives as breathing. We are all on a quest for deeper meaning, and our understanding of that depth is most always found during the darkness. In his book, "The Beatitudes: When Mountain Meets Valley", he reminds us that "all of us must face the dark places, fears, and insecurities within before real change can occur. If we seek insight,we must go into the caves, look the shadows straight on, ford raging streams, and ascend deep rock trails. When [pain is at its worst], the temptation is to give up and turn back. But it is at precisely such crossroads that the differences and distinctions between a dilettante/voyeur and a true pilgrim/saint are revealed." (19) Pain ensures that our roots go deep instead of staying on the surface addicted to the next outpouring of rain. Deep roots can withstand drought. The foundation of the one who has weathered the storm is built on the rock. "The rains fall down, waters rise, and the winds beat against the place, but it stands firm and strong." (Matthew 7:24-27) It is when we overcome heartache, disappointment, hatred, anger, anxiety, fear and doubt that we become oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor" (Is 61:3). At the point we face our junk head on, we become overcomers. God is not shocked at our darkness. He soothes and loves all the rough spots out of us. Ron Dart reminds us to be true to our nature. Cultivate the garden, prune and weed, and bring forth truth, goodness and beauty." (31). When we know that we are loved in spite of all our failings and shortcomings, we move forward into our destiny refusing to be held in slavery by the one who tells us we are not enough. Jesus knew all the ways we would mess up but he smiles at us and says "I took care of it all." He takes all of our "dirt, smudge and mud" and wipes it clean so our inner diamond shines (18).