Darkness . . .
As children it is in the darkness that the monsters in the closet and under the bed come out to play. As a child each and every noise, every creak, and every shadow spells danger and heightens the fear. Shadows—ghostly shadows—dance along the wall and across the ceiling. It is in the darkness that the minds of children begin to play tricks. The darkness is scary and everyone knows that only bad things happen in the darkness—ask any child and he or she will tell you. It is because of this that children learn to sleep with the light on.
With the light on there are no shadows dancing around the room. There are no monsters hiding in the closet or under the bed. Noises can easily be identified. The light exposes and pushes out all the scariness of the darkness and replaces it with the familiar and loved. With the light, darkness has no power . . . no gripe . . . and all is well in the world. There is peace. With peace comes sleep.
As a child sleeping with the light on worked. It worked because, as I wrote earlier, the light exposed and pushed the darkness out of the room. With the darkness gone the child could see everything for what it was . . . there was nothing to fear. There was nothing to fear because everything was familiar. With the familiar there comes a sense of contentment and peace in knowing that everything is where it is supposed to be.
As adults the darkness in life does not always come with the night, but the night can amplify the darkness that does fall upon life. As adults we learn that darkness does not need the night to infiltrate our lives. In the religion and spirituality darkness often symbolizes those difficult times in life when people struggle . . . when crisis occurs . . . when bad things seem to happen. As adults we learn quickly that the darkness does not need the night to make us fearful, lonely, and scared.
Darkness comes in all shapes and sizes in life. It comes with failing health and growing old. It comes with broken relationships and broken hearts. It comes with betrayal and cruelty. Darkness seeps in when accidents happen, jobs are lost, and people let us down. In death, the darkness comes. The darkness creeps in, slowly as it spreads into the corners of our souls and heart . . . and it immobilizes us in fear. When there is fear of the darkness it is hard to sleep as children; as adults it is hard to live and function.
The mystics of all faiths talk about the “dark night of the soul”. It is in the dark night of the soul that life and faith are worked out. In the Old Testament Jacob wrestled the stranger—God-- in the darkness of the night. In the New Testament Jesus struggled in the darkness of the garden. In the darkness the struggle takes place . . . it cannot be avoided. It cannot be avoid if the darkness is to lose its power and be exposed to the light. The old gospel hymn tells us that “the darkest hour is just before the dawn.”
Even though I am not the only person in life to encounter the darkness of life, there seems to have been quite a bit of it hanging around this summer. There is the darkness of the struggle with the oldest son and the fate of our granddaughter. There is the darkness that accompanies accusations and hurtful words for another son. There is the move of the youngest son to another state. There have been deaths of people close to me. People have moved on. Despite all of the sun this summer in Montana, at times it seems as the darkness blotted all of life out. And, I know that I am not the only one. I have heard the stories of others . . . how the darkness froze their lives . . .
What we could all use is a night light so that we could sleep with the light on . . . but, as adults we are too mature for such things as a smiley-face night light. So, we toss and turn, moan and groan, and try to sleep . . . try to function . . . try to live our lives . . . and, it is hard. It is hard because it seems as if the darkness will never leave our lives. It is hard because we feel as if we can never overcome this blanket of fear that has seized our hearts and souls. It is like it will never end . . .
At least that is what I feel from time to time; then I remember, “the darkest hour is just before the dawn.” Jacob struggled with God and so have I in the darkness. Jesus struggled in the darkness to honor God’s will for his life . . . haven’t we all? The struggle in the darkness must take place . . . the battle against the monsters and shadows must be waged. It cannot be avoid if we want to pass through the darkness into the light. And so, we seek light so that we can sleep.
In the caring embrace of another . . . we find light. Through the gentle listening by another as we share our darkness . . . we find light. In the familiar hymn, the breaking of the bread, and the lifting of the cup . . . we find the light. In the beauty of a sunset or sunrise, the gracefulness of fawn in the grass, and the singing of the birds . . . we find the light. In the sharing of tears with a fellow sojourner . . . we find the light. In the quiet assurance of the spoken and unspoken prayer . . . we find the light. In the light we can sleep.