Today the light is dark. Clouds hover low, ready to burst into tears. I don’t feel the hope that sunny days bring; I just feel a little tired.
I see the brown grass, the bare tree limbs, the winter’s muted colors. I am restless, groggy from an hour less of sleep caused by an honest attempt to “save daylight.”
What if nothing needed saving, and we could lean in to whatever measure of light we have, even if that means we lean into the dark?
In almost every ancient story we see the working of two opposing dualities: light & darkness. Even the Biblical story begins with darkness first, then separating into light. Yet God was there, hovering.
Often, I carelessly equate darkness with evil, pain, and sadness. I have often thought if I tried hard enough, thought positively enough, prayed enough, I could avoid these dark concepts. If I was good enough, made the right decisions, I could avoid most pain and heartache. I could avoid darkness.
What role has darkness played in your life? What does darkness mean to you?
For me, darkness has meant not knowing, feeling strong emotions deeply (including sorrow, fear, grief, and anger). Darkness has meant feeling stuck, bored, or empty. Darkness has meant feeling disconnected relationally or spiritually. Darkness has meant the results of mistakes or selfishness, of not knowing the right thing to do or of desire for something I know isn’t good for me. Darkness has meant a loved one dying. Darkness has meant things not working out the way I expected or wanted, a lack of control. Darkness can be so many scary things that I have worked most of my life to prevent or avoid.
What if avoiding isn’t the answer?
If we avoid darkness our bodies literally stop producing the hormones that help us to sleep. If we avoid darkness we miss out on all the small lights drowned out during the day: stars, lighting bugs, moonbeams. We avoid the symphony of creatures of the night, the owl’s song in harmony with the cricket’s string symphony. We miss out on the phosphorescent lights as the waves crash onto the shore. The smell of fading warmth and condensation of the night’s dew. The cooling of the world as the trees slowly breathe out the oxygen they were forming in the daylight. When I redirect my energy to do everything to avoid and prevent darkness in my life I miss the soft shadows only visible in the moonlight. I miss out on “the treasures of the darkness, the hidden wealth of secret places” as the Jewish prophet Isaiah describes (ch 45 v 3).
In her book “Learning to Walk in the Dark,” Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.”
What if darkness is a gift to embrace and appreciate, not to avoid and fear? What if it is a treasure that leads us to a wealth of beauty we overlook when fight to remain in the light?
I was talking with my husband the other day about realizing I can’t live my life waiting for things to be the way I wish they would be. I need to snatch every bit of joy I can, allowing myself to savor as much as possible. Allowing myself to appreciate and enjoy whatever the little things I can in the midst of moments of stretching and growth. The ability to allow myself rest on a regular basis even in the middle of a stressful season. Like how Jesus took a nap in a boat during a storm that one time (found in Matthew 8). If Jesus could nap in the middle of such dangerous darkness then why can’t we?
For me, darkness started as restrictive and uncomfortable, like newly tanned leather. As I have begun to spend time walking in the dark, it’s starting to wear more soft and beautiful. I am able to trust that if I lean into the dark God is there just as much as in the light. I no longer believe I need to control everything to avoid darkness because I am getting less and less afraid of the dark. I can appreciate the gifts it gives, of rest and perspective, and even trust it is the perfect place to concieve new life.
I’m learning to trust God is hovering , forming creative new things, here in the dark.