Darkness. I have written about it multiple times, but I continue to experience it as a very real thing in the lives of people. When we have lived long enough, we know about this darkness.
I am currently reading Thomas Moore’s Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals, and in that book, he describes the power of darkness and how to build upon the darkness. A friend introduced me to Moore’s work in the 1990’s with his New York Times bestseller, Care of the Soul. It is an understatement to say that his thinking, his philosophy, his spirituality and his poetic rendering of the power of dark nights to define us … to give us profound insight … to provide some of the best commentary on our lives that unfold in the light of day … has had a profound impact on my life.
As I shared in my last blog post, the dark skies that have defined the beginning of this autumn have fostered a darkness … a depression of sorts … within my own being. I write about darkness because I think we tend to deny it in our culture. According to Moore, there is a distinct difference between a quiet lunar presence and “a solar hero battling monsters and racking up mighty accomplishments.” (Moore, Dark Nights of the Soul, pg. 94)
As he begins talking about magic that happens in the dark, I paused. Then it hit me that the biblical story of the Magi (magicians would be our modern word) were people who traveled in the dark. They followed a star, which would not have been visible in the daylight. And their gifts to Jesus were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are gifts that foreshadow not only the proclamation of the reign of the Christ, but they also foreshadow his death … his darkness. In the joy of birth is the specter of death.
Journeying through the darkness isn’t new to me. My doctoral work is focused on the darkness often faced by the clergy, yet rarely acknowledged in the church. In the church, it is difficult even to acknowledge depression among the the laity who are dealing with depression and brokenness, but it is extremely rare that we acknowledge when the clergy have to face it. My work is titled Ministers Making It Through the Night: Healing and Hope for Ministers Experiencing Broken and Hurting Ministries. It is in that work that I came to realize that the only way through the darkness was to embrace it. It is there that I discovered in the darkness an epistemology … an entire system of learning … that comes, not from our wholeness, but from our brokenness. There is finally no way around it, and when we are willing to walk through the darkness, it reveals within us a unique foundation upon which we can build our lives.
This week provided me another insight. Early in the week, we had been having rain off and on. I was driving from one place to the next when I saw it. A rainbow. I stopped to take a picture, and when I looked at the picture later, I realized it was a double rainbow.
It struck me that the rainbow is created in the dance between the sunlight and the dark clouds still forming mist and rain. It is the dance between daylight and dark. In that moment, I was reminded of an ancient promise from God.
It wasn’t a promise that we would never experience darkness … or terror … or nightmares. It was a promise that, when we journey through the darkness, we will see the beauty that can only happen with the unfolding dance between the darkness and the daylight. It is a promise that we will not be destroyed by the dance; rather, we will be edified by it. The dance between daylight and dark is what makes sunrises and sunsets the great subjects of modern photography. It is what speaks most deeply into our souls.
So I have learned to live in the moment … to join in the dance. It allows us to acknowledge the reality of the dark emotional states that are so real in our world. It gives us permission to embrace the darkness … to walk through it … in search of a rainbow. It gives us permission to stand quietly with one another in the dark … learning together its sometimes profound insights into who we really are.
So as you engage in this dance, look for the rainbow. If you are lucky enough, you might just be blessed with two!