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Racine, WI 53405

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Darkness & Light

Have you noticed that people were putting on their outside Christmas lights a lot earlier this year? Light way before Thanksgiving! Maybe we can blame it on the warm weather, but I think is has to do with how much we are subconsciously craving light and all that it means for us. Light represents hope, joy, warmth, guidance, knowledge, safety and peace.

Darkness on the other hand usually signifies a difficult time, loneliness, loss, emptiness, sadness, fear, uncertainty, and pain. And, yet, the paradox of darkness is that beautiful things can happen in the darkness – growth, transformation, insight, understanding and healing.

Like many kids, I was afraid of the dark. I always wanted a night light on to keep the monsters in the shadows of my closet and under my bed. At Christmas time it was one of those ceramic Christmas trees with the multi-colored lights that my mom made. 

The flip side of my fear of the dark is that I learned early that there are some things  you can't see unless it is dark. I remember camping out west one year and going to the ranger talk one night. We all laid down on the side of a gently sloping hill and gazed up at the stars while the ranger used a flashlight to  point out all the constellations. The darkness of the wilderness allowed us to see so many more stars than we can here where there are streetlights and parking lot lights and car lights. It was a truly wonder-full experience.

Darkness and light are complicated once we begin to think about them and so is Christmas.

Christmas is a time of year that brings out many of the shadows we’ve shoved into our emotional closets.  Grief, loss, disappointment, broken relationships, lost dreams, being far away from loved ones, illness… it all comes crashing in on us and we want to scream sometimes that this isn’t how Christmas is supposed to be! What happened to the wonder, magic and joy we felt as children? Or maybe our childhoods were such that we never felt those things because the adults around us were too broken to give them to us.

This time of year we want to focus on Light and pretend darkness doesn’t exist. But we can’t have one without the other, and it does us a disservice to believe we can.

Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book Learning to Walk in the Dark, talks about "solar churches," where the people constantly focus on staying in the light of God, “absorbing and reflecting the sunny side of faith.” It sounds pretty good to begin with: a certainty of belief, a sure sense of God’s presence, divine guidance in all things, unwavering faith, positive attitude. But, as Taylor points out, the trouble begins when darkness falls on your life, and maybe you begin to doubt your faith, the Bible, even God. She says you may get a sympathetic hearing at first, but if you continue to talk about it and ask questions about it, you may be reminded that “God won’t test you beyond what you can handle” and all you need to do is “have faith.” Platitudes and cliches that don’t really help at all. And if you still don’t get their message, then “sooner or later it will be made explicit to you: the darkness is your own fault, because you do not have enough faith.”

Here’s the problem: solar Christians tend to lack the resources to deal with the dark. Which also means they lacked direction in finding the treasures that lie in darkness if we allow ourselves to dig in a little deeper and look. Taylor suggests we’re better off understanding ourselves as having a lunar spirituality – one in which the light ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes, in our lives. Living fully, and working toward wholeness, means going with the flow of light and darkness and discovering what they have to teach us.

In the darkness there are things to honor and remember with gratitude, emotions to feel and understand, old ways of being to let go of so that we can birth new ways of being, solace and solitude of hibernating for rest and healing. The darkness also enables us to honor our pain and what it teaches us, as well as to recognize the beauty and preciousness of life.

Know this, even while we will always have times of darkness, the Light of the Divine shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. No, the light doesn't get rid of the darkness, but it illumines our paths and holds us safely.

Love & Light!