I’ve spent a lot of time moving in the dark.
I have a good life. But it is not the life I thought I’d have. I have four sons and six grandchildren and that is a beautiful story because I have a body that was made broken to not give birth to children. I honestly never had any grief over this broken body. Maybe because I’ve had so much physical pain for most of my adult life. Or maybe because it is true that when I was a teen God told me I would never have children. I have simply always known this and the continual pain was always a reminder.
Yet I do have sons and grandchildren (of course that is a story) and I never knew life could be this good! Even though two of my sons have ended up in prison anyway. Their choices. They had the opportunity to change their path but they didn’t. This is not a new part of my life. It’s been over 20 years. I’ve spent a lot of time moving in the dark. And as of this writing it is looking like one of my sons has chosen to not have me in his life anymore. His shame has destroyed him and he’s given up the fight.
This is my current darkness. Yet life needs me to move.
(There is also darkness when you find out your son in prison was very sick with COVID19. But he doesn’t tell you til he’s nearly recovered. The “what could have happened” thoughts don’t go away very easily.)
I have learned to move in the dark. This is my brave decision. This is what I’ve learned.
- God is there in the darkness. Dark and light are not this either/or thing with God.
- The darkness is where everything starts. Look at creation. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:1-3.
Out of the darkness came all of creation. Including me. God stooped down and created me (and you) out of the dust of the ground. God took dust and created value. And with that creation in his hand, he breathed life into us. His breath brought the created value to life
- We go to sleep and in that darkness God begins his work. Tish Harrison Warren broke it down so wonderfully like this:
In Jewish culture, days begin in the evening with the setting of the sun. (We see this in Genesis 1 with the repetition of “and there was evening and there was morning.”) The day begins with rest. We start by settling down and going to sleep.
This understanding of time is powerfully reorienting, even jarring, to those of us who measure our days by our own efforts and accomplishments. The Jewish day begins in seemingly accomplishing nothing at all. We begin by resting, drooling on our pillow, dropping off into helplessness. Eugene Peterson says, ‘The Hebrew evening/morning sequence conditions us to the rhythms of grace. We go to sleep and God begins his work.
Though the day begins in darkness, God is still at work, growing crops, healing wounds, giving rest, protecting, guarding, mending, redeeming. We drop out of consciousness, but the Holy Spirit remains at work. ― Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, p. 150-151
Darkness can make me feel helpless, overwhelmed. Yet we go to sleep and God begins his work. So many thoughts there as I move in my darkness. Thoughts of hope too.
- Night reminds me that I’m not in control of everything.
- I believe I’ve attained the gift of lunar faith. Barbara Grown Taylor introduced me to this.
Instead I have been given the gift of lunar spirituality, in which the divine light available to me waxes and wanes with the season. When I go out on my porch at night, the moon never looks the same way twice. Some nights it is as round and bright as a headlight; other nights it is thinner than the sickle hanging in my garage. Some nights it is high in the sky, and other nights low over the mountains. Some nights it is altogether gone, leaving a vast web of starts that are brighter in its absence. All in all the moon is a truer mirror for my soul than the sun that looks the same way every day. –Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark, p. 9
Every day God looks different to me. God waxes and wanes from personally close to unreachable in the darkness. But God, like the moon, is always present. Even in the bright daylight. I just don’t always recognize God.
- Isaiah 45:3 promises me:
And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness–secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.
There are treasures hidden in this darkness. Those treasures have my name on them. I will keep moving to find them.
- It was in the darkness that Mary Magdalene made her way to the tomb of Jesus. Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. John 20:1. Remember the rhythm of the Jewish night and days.
Mary moved through the darkness to care for Jesus’ rotting body only to find out—and to be the first one—that Jesus was no longer there. He was risen! He was risen indeed! Mary went when it was dark and found the Light of the World.
Wasn’t this Light of the World born in the darkness of night? It was in that darkness that a star could be seen and followed. It is in that darkness than an angel came to announce the good news.
Jesus’ darkest hours was that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. In that honest, gut-wrenching time, God was there.
When we move in the dark, God is there also. We are not alone even as we feel the most alone.
It is a gift (or secret riches) to know darkness. Hurts like hell but still a gift. Because unknown things still happen in that darkness. Things grow in that darkness. Resurrection happens in that darkness.
So I continue to bravely move in the dark.
p.s. I wrote a 6-part series about this darkness of God where God is. Lots of scripture mixed with some new thoughts I discovered. Start with Looking Into the Darkness to Find God.