We can’t avoid the dark night of the soul, or dark and challenging times of our life.
Yet, at the first sign of the shadow of darkness moving toward us, we tend to run.
Many hide from difficult times by becoming addicted to substances, food, work, or relationships.
Trappist Monk Thomas Merton says when a person begins facing the dark night, “he will run away from the darkness, and do the best he can to dope himself with the first light that comes along.”
Although I have a fairly bright disposition most of the time, I’ve had harrowing dark nights in my life. I still go through milder versions of these dark times intermittently — although they last only days or weeks at the most, where as years back, depression and darkness seemed to be yearly companions.
When I moved to San Francisco from Long Island to attend college, I expected sunny California skies. Days upon summer days, I’d wait for the muted sun to pierce it’s sharp rays through the San Francisco’s dense fog. Just the same, during dark periods of my life, depression hung over me like the thick, relentless fog hanging over the Golden Gate bridge. I yearned to taste the merciful exuberance of joy, but could never sense it’s divine breath pushing through the thick, dense barrier of depression’s walls.
Then I started wondering if darkness was like a cloak of comfort, like a grieving widow wearing black?
A counselor once said, “why don’t you celebrate your sadness”, for she said it held in it grief that needed attention, real feelings submerged in dank cellars that needed some light.
I surrendered to my dark times, eating it’s thickness, drinking it’s tasteless dew, swallowing it all up.
I read depressing books, watched sad movies, and learned it’s morose language.
Until I learned what it meant to turn toward the light.
I didn’t know God back then.
When we turn to God, we turn to the light, where God’s luminous love freely shines a grand spotlight on our darkness.
Then the dawn comes, and light pours in.
This is Holy Darkness – the inner dwelling of God in our darkness — where darkness becomes a path toward the light of God.
A baby is born from the dark womb, bursting forth into life.
We hear of those who died and returned, of their journey toward a great light, and about those dying gracefully and peacefully.
A light that always existed in our darkness, we just never turned on the switch.
“Divine Darkness is the unapproachable light in which God dwells. Into this Darkness, rendered invisible by its own excessive brilliance and unapproachable by the intensity of its transcendent flood of light, come to be all those who are worthy to know and to see God”- Dionysus the Aeropagite
Author John Granger wrote a fascinating article in Christianity Today about the Harry Potter phenomenon in ‘Harry is Here to Stay‘. Granger says that Rowlings writes ‘a spiritual allegory of the soul’s transformation to perfection in Christ‘ where the characters have resurrection experiences. He compares these resurrection experiences to alchemy, “where the darkness of lead becomes illumined and enlightened to become gold”, and “The alchemist’s heart is restored to Edenic perfection.”
St. John of the Cross said “the purpose of the dark night is to purgeus”.
Merton further tells us, that the darkness comes when we allow God to strip away the false selves and makes us into the person’s we were meant to be.
In the end, we are children of God. We are all children of the light and children of the day. In the end, we do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
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