Not long ago, I wrote about blinding light. That morning, in response, I received an email from a reader (and friend), who asked, "What is it with Christians and light? Don't you know the value of darkness?"
I responded that personally, I do. And I added that I believe Christianity, as a movement, is at a unique point in its history where it, too, is coming to understand the blessings of brokenness. Where we're ready to honor the dark instead of always fighting against it.
I have to admit there are all kinds of subtleties that go into a topic so deep as this one, and I cannot pretend to understand them all. Darkness, and even the light, are such intimate journeys. I can only speak to mine.
Speaking out of mine, I have to say that while I appreciate a healthy measure of darkness, I don't know how people without the light do it. I don't know what they hold onto. I don't know what they hope for. I don't know what pulls them back when the darkness has teeth. I need to know the light is out there or I'm quick to lose it.
Now, much of this depends on what kind of darkness you're in, too. Sometimes, it's so simple as the moment when the lights go out, but for me, darkness is generally a more complicated process. It might be an auditory darkness, where it's not dark and light, black and white, but instead, it's silence and whisper. Without that whisper echoing in my heart, I might be drawn into the silence. In a place where nothing speaks, nothing is true. It can't be. That little whisper is the answer to my auditory darkness; it reminds me what truth is so I don't have to buy the lie.
Maybe it's a tactile darkness. Maybe it's a place where I feel untouchable, when it's been so long since I've felt anything brush against my skin. And maybe I feel like there's nothing in this world I can touch. In those times, it's the hand of God holding me that answers the darkness. I can feel that more powerfully when I can't feel anything else, and it becomes my sustenance.
It sounds, maybe, like I'm holding onto the littlest of things and they are filling me up. That is far from the truth. These things - these whispers, this Hand of God, a single candle in the dark - are mere strands. They are bare threads, but they give me the courage and the strength to stand in the darkness and not be (as) afraid. That's the way darkness is for me. I walk into enveloping darkness because the faintest hope allows me to do so.
No, it requires me to do so.
Because the Hand of God does not pull me away. The whisper does not call me back. The candle only teases my eyes. These simple threads do not raise me up; they lower me down.
Hard as it is sometimes, I'm okay with that. It is the darkness where the greatest beauty is made. The butterfly in the chrysalis, for example. The diamond in the rough. It is the darkness where healing takes place. Think of a scar you have, that started as a scab. It started as a simple covering to create the darkness, and the safety, for the wound to heal. It is the darkness where I am invited to do my own hard work because I can't see you looking at me. Self-consciousness, the pretense of self, disappears.
And it is darkness where the tender hand of God forms a cradle, where the whisper echoes through the empty spaces, and where the flame dances.
Not all darkness is created equal, of course. Some of it can swallow you alive, you and the bread crumbs that lead you out of here. Some will not devour you, but it will destroy you. Some invites you to a deeper well; some, pushes you deeper than you ever meant to go. It's hard to know sometimes, standing at the precipice, what to do with any given darkness. Where courage or strength or hope stands. It's hard to know whether this is a moment to walk into or walk away from. If you're following me on Facebook or Twitter (and why aren't you?), you saw my answer to this last night. Although, at the time I wrote it, I didn't know this would be today's post. But the answer to that question is this:
It's hard to know when to lean in, when to fall back, and when to stand your ground. Sometimes, all you can do is pray and trust that when you lean in, God will follow. When you fall back, He will catch you. And when you stand your ground, He stands beside you.
He's promised that much. And that little bit, as small as it seems in the grand scheme of enveloping darkness, is enough of a light to hold onto.