I’m Not Scared of the Dark… Sometimes

September 4, 2013

Christmas Eve 2008, I preached a sermon from the perspective of the darkness in John 1. I was in the throes of pancreatitis, so my body was racked with pain and I actually have no memory of preaching it. But I have my manuscript of it and the recording, so I know it happened. The experience of writing that sermon made me realize that darkness is very much a character of scripture and of life.

I am familiar with darkness in a literal and figurative or spiritual sense. When Psalm 88 says, “the darkness is my closest friend,” I know that in multiple ways and at multiple times in my life.

Like the night of January 9th, 2009, just hours after I had found out that the baby inside me was dead. My pancreatitis had caused many sleepless nights already, but this night the darkness was compounded by deep grief and loss. The dark of the house was suffocating. We had closed the curtains and locked up our home so tight in an effort to ward out the reality of life. The moments ticked by as I stared at the ceiling, too tired to cry, too anxious to sleep, too grief-stricken to pray. All in one day, I had gone from trying to figure out what was causing my pancreatitis to an ultrasound that shocked us with bad news to my own supervisor mocking me  as I struggled with the impact of what had happened. It was dark. So dark.

Or after the diagnosis of cancer on January 20th, 2009, with the endless tests and phone calls and lab visits, when spiritually I felt like I was in the deepest, darkest valley of death. I remember writing in my journal that my main desire at that moment was to just get OUT of the dark, out of the deathly valley, but I had no strength to go. So I wrote that it felt as if Jesus had a rope tied around my waist as I laid on the ground, and he was using that rope to haul me out of the darkness, dragging my weight with a resolve that only he could muster.

Or when we were told we would now have a 1% chance of ever having a child. After so much loss and the reactions of the community around us, we held this darkness inside. We told only a few people. And instead of trying to leave the dark valley, we just stopped. We turned inward. We gave up on God and his goodness.

There’s a reason the Dark Night of the Soul takes place in… the dark.

But while darkness is often described in scripture as an enemy, darkness isn’t always a bad thing. When we confirmed the miracle of our son’s life, the ultrasound tech shut off the lights, plunging us into semi-darkness as the image of his tiny heartbeat appeared before us. How vastly different to the darkness before.

Or the darkness at night when our newborn son cried and we held him to comfort him.

Or the darkness of my favorite early winter morning when the world is at peace and I am most aware of God’s awareness.

Sometimes darkness becomes God’s tool, and sometimes darkness becomes God’s message. It all depends on what the darkness means and intends.

Right now, I am moving in the darkness of decision and discernment, anxious over where my path now lies and what it looks like, feeling like any path is daunting and I worry I won’t make it. This darkness is both a curse and gift. I am waiting for clarity, but I am also unsure of when God might speak. And deep in my mind, I worry that he won’t.

And yet, I am choosing to call this darkness “my closest friend.” Why? Because of the story of Abraham… who was promised generations of children and grandchildren, who journeyed with God in faith, who was called God’s friend. The darkness too was Abraham’s friend- because it had to be dark for him to see the stars of the sky when the Lord promised him his generations would outnumber them. It had to be dark.

Sometimes the darkness hides things like God’s presence, reason, faith, or hope. But sometimes darkness reveals things: how it feels to have Someone you can’t see beside you, the refreshing quiet of solitude, the obstacles in our hearts to a purer faith, the stars. It could be that in the darkness, we can find a God who draws close to us without our seeing, and he gets closer than we let him in the light. And it takes the dark for us to understand the light.

In the dark, we see the light all the clearer. In the dark, we can see the stars of the sky. In the dark only.

So while darkness is an enemy at times, it can also be a friend. If we would choose it and let God transform it.

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