Hi Sister...so glad you're here. I've been thinking about how we all just want to stand in the sun...and how we fear the dark. That has sure been true for me...you too?. There are times I have to stop to remind myself of the truth I've learned, which is this...there are true and beautiful things to be found in the darkness; Treasures waiting to be discovered in the dark shadows of the moon that can’t be seen in the bright light of the sun.
A few nights ago I got this reminder in an unexpected way. Todd and I joined our son, daughter-in-law and three grandsons for the first camp fire of the summer. We all sat in a circle under the stars, each of us happy to be in the moment – the kids filled with anticipation of the summer ahead, mom and dad celebrating the silent victory of making it through to the end of another school year, and Pops and Nana just thrilled to be witnessing it all. A big warm fire burned in the pit out in the far back of the property near the small pond and the chicken coop. An area of the yard where the boys have spent countless hours playing ball, hunting lizards, digging in the garden, or catching and releasing the same six perch that live in the pond.
I sat there watching them darting about, and I noticed there was something different - a renewed excitement happening. A new sense of curiosity and discovery. 12 year old Gavin watched his home made torch catch the flames of the fire; 6 year old Connor, flash light & bucket in hand, unearthed toads hunkered in the pond’s edge; and 3 year old Hudson, sporting his fancy green glow stick necklace chased behind in pure delight. A whole new world had opened up to them in the darkness. An area so familiar in the day light had transformed into a mystery to be discovered under the shadows of the moon. And I couldn’t help but think what they would be missing if they had only stayed standing in the sun. If they had never followed the call of the night to enter into it’s mystery - all the treasure they would have missed. And I thought about how life is like this too.
I don’t know about you, but I grew up believing that light was goods and darkness bad. That all happy feelings were good and all dark uncomfortable feelings were bad. I believed that the formula for a “good life” meant avoiding all darkness at all cost...internal and external. That looked like shutting down, turning off, and hiding the parts of myself that were less than rainbows, daisies, or unicorns. And it meant avoiding all difficult conversations and seeing any form of discomfort or pain (i.e. darkness), as some sort of indictment that meant I was doing life wrong.
Dear Sister – the danger in this thinking is that it leaves no room for our full humanity. It means living half a life. Because the truth is, we are all wired for light and dark, for joy and pain. Being human is to know all of it…joy, pain, light, & darkness. We are born knowing how to laugh and cry. Our light sits right next to our darkness. Our joy sits next to our sadness, our compassion next to our anger, and our courage next to our fear. So when we run away from the darkness, from discomfort, sadness, pain and fear…we miss what gifts of self might be there waiting for us. We miss discovering the fullness of who we truly are. We are living as only half a person, and only half awake.
When we run away from the darkness, from discomfort, sadness, pain and fear…we miss what gifts of self might be there waiting for us. We miss discovering the fullness of who we truly are.
I heard Barbara Brown Taylor talk about darkness as the metaphor of the night. She talked about staying in the darkness just 12 seconds longer than you think you can. Because in those 12 seconds the stars might appear, the glowworms might show themselves, the voice of the screech owl may find it’s way to your ears, and other magical night wonders that you didn’t even know you were missing may show themselves. Discoveries that will hold gifts for you, that will change who you are, how you see yourself, and the way you think about your world and your place in it. I love this idea of the 12 seconds. I love that she’s not asking us to set up camp in the darkness, just to pause, get curious, and lean into it long enough for it to change us for the better.
So what does 12 seconds look like? It looks like this. Instead of reaching for that distraction - the mindless social media scrolling, over working, go-go-going, endless to-doing, or diving into rescuing the world...we get still, lean in and listen for the small quiet voice of our own truth hidden in the dark. It means instead of reaching for the nearest numbing - that next glass of wine, the on-line shopping, or more and more lottery tickets...we pause long enough to let curiosity have a seat next to our pain, and for the two of them to have a conversation. It means instead of giving our attention to all the voices in our head, we take a small quiet moment to drop into our body and sit with ourself, and with every breath, to send love to ourself.
12 seconds longer…that feels doable, doesn't it? Then we can go ahead and run back to the comfort of the light, because we're not meant to hunker in the darkness. It’s about staying there until what is hidden becomes revealed. It’s about opening up our eyes a little bigger, listening a little more intently, and becoming curious to the unknown. It’s about being willing to let the darkness change us for the better. Yes it’s true we’re not meant to live in the darkness, but we are meant to walk with it at times, to visit it at times, and maybe even to befriend it during certain seasons…all of this so that we can be fully human, and fully awake to life.
It’s about opening up our eyes a little bigger, listening a little more intently, and becoming curious to the unknown. It’s about being willing to let the darkness change us for the better.