Walking in Darkness
“If I have any expertise it is in the realm of spiritual darkness: fear of the unknown, familiarity with divine absence, mistrust of conventional wisdom, suspicion of religious comforters, keen awareness of the limits of language about God and at the same time shame over my inability to speak of God without a thousand qualifiers, doubt about the health of my own soul, and barely suppressed contempt for those who have no such qualms. These are the areas of my proficiency.”
Barbara Brown Taylor (Learning to Walk in the Dark)
We had something of a debate in the Spirituality Group yesterday as to whether God is only light and love. Some of us equate darkness with negativity, and negativity with fear and hate. Sometimes negativity is appropriate and even necessary. We feel frightened if we speak of the dark side of God; afraid that perhaps we have lost the meaning of “Christ Light,” or worse, we are staining our Creator with evil. But all darkness is not evil, and all light is not good. There are life lessons best learned in darkness, which could never be learned in the light. Essential lessons.
Like Barbara Brown Taylor, the longer I live, the less I know. All the certainties of my youth have fallen away, and I walk in a cloud of unknowing—and that's a good thing even though it sounds like a bad thing. We humans have rather audacious ideas about our authority when it comes to God. Some of us speak of the Source of Life as we would a small furry mouse we carry around in our pocket.
Ask any cancer survivor what they learned from having had the disease—to live each day as though it matters, to love their lives, to appreciate the people who love them, and to walk with gratitude as a constant companion. Ask someone whose been to war how it changed them. They want to do something meaningful with their life, not fritter it away in self-indulgence. They want to build and not tear down. Out of darkness, light.
Understand that fear is normal when it comes to darkness, especially when it involves looking at our own dark shadow. We delve and do not know what may be there inside us—perhaps a monster, the Minotaur in the labyrinth. But often what we find is our dark knight—the one who will fight our fight, and defend our vulnerabilities. Out of the darkness, strength we didn't know was ours.
It is easy to see God in the light. Only when we allow God to be part of our darkness as well do we make our understanding of the Divine whole. God is all that there is—in darkness as well as light. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 41:10)
In the Spirit,