Just back from a visit with some of my favorite people in Happy Valley, PA., my over achieving mother, on hospice for more than a year now, continues to defy all reasonable expectations. Even so, her limited life is pained and strained and she is more than ready. Our conversations, practical and short over the phone from a distance, took on a different quality in person. Mother is the epitome of both sorrow and grace all wrapped into one tiny frail package. And I get it.
With the finish line in view it has become clear, Mother doesn’t fear the dark. And as I sit bedside, both refreshed and unfazed by her impatient even morbid candor, I must admit, neither am I. Our time together was bittersweet. The honest dive we took into the deep end exposed a longing for Eden and illuminated truths only visible in the dark — like the triviality of things, the priority of relationship, and the urgency of forgiveness and faith.
Before you stop reading …
Please know that for mother and I, this perspective, while uncomfortable to the ‘think only sunny thoughts population’, has been a gift. The rhythm of life whether acknowledged or not, includes both the bright day and the dark night. The way I see it, it’s only when we embrace that reality and even befriend the darkness, that our lives become whole.
Isaiah 45:3 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.
For those of us who’ve been around church for awhile, it’s no wonder we’re confused by the notion of darkness. For starters, Christianity hasn’t been kind to it. It’s a synonym for sin, ignorance, spiritual blindness and death. Satan himself is the prince of darkness. Theologically though, darkness is more complicated.
We fall into a trap when we pit the night against the day, and assume that bad stuff only happens in the dark.
1 John 1:5 God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.
Of course God gets attributed to the sunny part, leaving us to deal with the rest. In a sense, this shallow thinking offers us a giant closet, a place to store anything that threatens our bright and tidy faith.
The Easy Solution
Our training begins early when as children we learn the expedient solution to the monsters under our bed. Simply turn on the light. No wonder we deal with darkness by avoidance and denial. We turn off the news and avoid our troubles distracted by our favorite vice. If only we could keep the lights on. If only we could stay in the light of God around the clock? If we could, surely we’d be comforted by a constant sense of God’s presence, reliable answers to prayer, continual clarity and certain understanding.
Here’s the thing…such a sunny prescriptive faith will surely crack under pressure. The trouble begins when darkness falls and reality bites us.
But…even when light fades and darkness falls, as it does every single day in every single life, God doesn’t give up His throne and turn things over to the enemy. Even when you can’t see where you’re going and no one answers when you call, that’s insufficient proof that you’re alone. The truth is, there is a God that transcends all your ideas about Him. He is awesome and mysterious and won’t kowtow to any desire to define, understand or contain Him. In a sense, the darkness acts as the wrecking ball that brings all your false gods down.
Psalm 139:2 Darkness is not dark to God. The night is as bright as the day.
Isaiah 45:5-7 5 I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, 6 so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the Lord, and there is no other. 7 I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things.
BOTH / AND
The way I see it, God ordained a life that is BOTH AND. We live in both sunlight and moonlight, and experience both delight and fear. We admit limits and exceed them and fall down and rise up. To want a life with only half these things in it, is to want half a life.
In my experience, when I’ve taken on water, eventually, by doing the next right thing, I’ve discovered that the darkness, veiled in awful circumstances, didn’t sink me. Instead, it was the energy I wasted trying to avoid the darkness that nearly did.
Could It Be
that it’s our wrestling in the dark that yields in us more light — such as compassion, empathy, deeper friendships, more gratitude, a sense of meaning and purpose, a stronger faith?
Makes me wonder about the times that seeing has made me blind by giving me cheap confidence that one quick glance had accurately informed me. Instead my sight only distracted me from considering the light inside me and I pressed on assuming I had it under control.
Still Reluctant to Befriend the Darkness?
Consider this…whether a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb or Jesus in the tomb, new life ALWAYS begins in the dark.
While visiting with mother I was reminded of the truth…what a waste of time it is to strive for a life of smooth sailing. Instead, when we befriend the darkness while hanging onto the Lord, our roots grow deep and secure. Gifted with perspective, we’re able to experience the beautiful ache of joy and pain all tangled together.
My guess is, you know a person who is wrestling with some sort of darkness and still exhibits true joy. That’s your clue to scoot up close. Chances are, their perspective will spill out of them and teach you something.
Chris Tomlin’s song Indescribable says it well . Pay attention to the lyrics.
For His Glory, Debbie Hucke