You know how when you get something new, learn something new or become something new, that new thing seems to show up everywhere you turn?
Years ago, I bought a Volkswagen Jetta …and suddenly, it’s like I saw Jettas everywhere. And I didn’t just see the car, it’s like I felt a kinship with the driver of that car. Oh, you drive a Jetta? I drive a Jetta. Does your Jetta also smell like crayons? I get you, Jetta-driver. I get you.
It was the same when someone wore a sweatshirt with the name the organization I used to to work for, or when, upon dating the man who would become my husband, we saw another interracial couple. Don’t even get me started on the aura that births itself within the bodies of pregnant women or the eye-spy game that somehow naturally happens when a baby comes onto the scene.
It’s like that new thing can’t help but stand out from the crowd.
Lately for me, that new thing has come in the form of light and darkness. Everywhere I look, it’s like I can’t help but notice light peeking out from the depths of darkness. I see it on the news and I read it in articles (like this one from theologian Esau McCaulley last week). I spot it in books and I notice it in gardening – how tiny, microscopic seeds can’t help but push their way out of darkness, eager for light and sky and air.
There are entire theologies built around light and darkness, entire books that examine every facet of it (Learning to Walk in the Dark, anyone?) and entire scientific museums dedicated to the subject.
Maybe it just took a pandemic to help me notice what’s been there all along, or at least lean into the depths of its truths that much more.
Take this poem by Wendell Berry (from A Timbered Choir), for example:
The dark around us, come,
Let us meet here together,
Members one of another,
Here in our holy room,
Here on our little floor,
Here in the daylight sky,
Rejoicing mind and eye,
Rejoining known and knower,
Light, leaf, foot, hand, and wing,
Such order as we know,
One household, high and low,
And all the earth shall sing.
Years ago when I lived in Santa Cruz, I discovered a retreat center and hour and a half north, run by the Sisters of Mercy. Once a month they hosted a Taize service, a night of chanted verses and drippy candles, theirs the only light in the darkness. I was probably 25 at the time, and even though I couldn’t name it, something deep within me yearned to be in this place and to experience this side of God.
Most of the time, God was loud, campy, programmatic. God was spirited and boisterous, charismatic and charming. God, you see, was quite like me, or at least quite like everything I thought a follower of Jesus was supposed to look like and act like and be like.
But when I stumbled upon the Mercy Center, God was not like that at all.
God, in fact, was a rather quiet sort of being. God, as it turned out, was the one beckoning me, not the other way around.
And as we strangers gathered together, hushed and quiet, waiting, unknowing, expectant, something holy happened in that place. We came together, as if by force (God-force, some might say).
Because there, then, all the earth sang in darkness.
There, I saw light in darkness: in the candles, in the gift of hope, in the breath of a prayer.
And now, as memory tells my typing fingers, I see how it’s always been that way: light, pushing through the darkness, speaking to me, daring me believe it true.
Is it the same for you?
I’ll say this to close: if seeing light in darkness is also your jam, consider writing your way through it for a couple of weeks. I’m gearing up to host an online writing workshop called, “Write the Light,” and I’d love to have you join me.
All of my workshops are donation-based, based on a sliding scale (although you can always pay in full on my website).
Care to join me?
I’d love to journey with you.
Light in darkness: what say you? What’s your favorite light-meets-darkness piece of poetry or Scripture?
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