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Annie Turner

Annie Turner
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Friday, April 20, 2012

DO I LOATHE OR WELCOME DARKNESS?

I've been thinking about darkness lately, and whether I think it has some good in it or whether I basically loathe it.  As a child, I remember hating the darkness that rested in the hallway of our 1756 house--a hallway which was full of creaks and groans as the house settled for the night.  For me, the darkness was attached to those distressing and frightening sounds.  So, if "darkness" had a Face Book page where one could vote "like" or "unlike", I'd have to click on "unlike" for "childhood darkness."

Then, as a teenager, darkness came to be associated with heady times with my first real boyfriend (whom I wound up marrying), being a time full of promise and the passion of first love.  I'd have to vote, "like" for "teenage darkness."

As a not-so-young mother, darkness came to be associated with night-time feedings, which I loved.  In the night I seemed part of something larger than just my baby and me, some mother-lode which I tapped into, being fed by it as well. The warmth of that little body pressed against me, suckling and taking nourishment--I did not think it got any better than this, although some great Celtic harp music would have gone down well to accompany the nursing.  So, I'd have to vote "like" for "mother darkness."

When a person dear to me fell seriously ill, darkness became not a place of refuge but a place of despair, where I was not at all sure I would survive, sanity intact.  It became a place of frantic prayers to God, a la Anne Lamott, helphelphelp and pleasepleaseplease. I'd swiftly press my finger on "unlike" for the "darkness of suffering."

And yet, and yet?  Isn't it in that very darkness that God can come to us, when we are wandering like a lost child, looking for a hand to hold onto?  At least, this was true for me.  At the very moment of my deepest suffering I experienced a ray of light so absolute, so firm, that I could have walked out on that path to peace and light.  And I did.  So, I'd have to change my vote to "like" for the "darkness of suffering."

The Gospel of John continually plays off the dualities of light and dark:  those of us who have received Jesus as savior are in the light; those who have rejected Him, often unfortunately called "the Jes" (there are different ways of tgranslating the Green words, hoi Iodaioi) are in darkness and will be thrown into hell.  (This is not a view that I either support or believe in.)  While struggling with the while concept of a Face Book page, a 1st-century Christian would probably vote "unlike" for "John's darkness."

Richard Rohr, the radical Franciscan priest and author of numerous spiritual books, writes that "Faith is a journey into darkness and not-knowing."  Perhaps this is the definition of darkness which best suits my experience; that to take the leap of trusting in a God we often cannot see and frequently are completely baffled by (if not actively mad at), is to walk into a particular kind of darkness--the kind where we cannot see the shape of chairs in the room, the kind where we cannot find the window to pull up the blinds or the misshapen lamp to switch on and relieve our anxieties.  If--a big IF--we can only trust in that journey into uncertainty; if we can only believe that God will actually be there, sitting in the plump armchair next to the misshapen lamp, waiting for us to find the light switch, and once we do, murmuring tenderly, "What took you so long, honey?  I've been here all along, waiting for you."  Then we can take those uncertain steps into any darkness, no matter what it holds for us, no longer worrying about whether or not we like the darkness.