This Advent season, I have been sitting with longtime companions, Darkness and Light. As I grow in age, and perhaps wisdom, I’ve begun to appreciate the necessity of both. I find that in Advent, we sometimes want to “hurry up” Darkness so we can arrive at the Light. I’m learning how to sit at the table with Darkness and her hear story as well.
Last weekend, I had the honor of co-facilitating a group of discerning deaconesses at a United Methodist Women’s gathering at Lake Junaluska, NC. As a part of our spiritual formation time on Saturday, we practiced sabbath, and each of us took 30 minutes to get outside or rest at the prayer stations I’d assembled.
We’d planned that sabbath time outside based on a sunny morning sky and warming temperatures. Being in an interior room without windows, however, we were greeted at the door by a sudden shift in weather. The cold front had moved in and the sky had darkened with grey clouds.
I paused for a moment thinking I would just snuggle up at a prayer station, but I knew my spirit needed connection with Creation after being indoors for 2 days. Rather than take the flat path by the lake, I climbed the hill up to the highest level where the cross is. From there, you can look across the lake and clearly witness the majesty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
As I sat silently on the stone amphitheater bench, I peered out into the distance. There amid the clouds settling in around deep blue mountains, shafts of life came streaming down upon one small section. It provided such clarity that I could even observe the texture of trees.
In that moment, I realized something. Without the dark mountains serving as backdrop, I would never have seen the light.
Since the onset of Advent, I have been meditating on this marriage of Dark and Light–claiming neither as “good” or “bad” but rather appreciating their partnership in our journey. I daresay that Darkness often brings gifts and grace that are unexpected.
Before you call me a hopeless optimist, I will share that Darkness has had a place at my table for many, many years. While there has been occasion that I felt she overstayed her welcome, I have come to appreciate her contributions to my growth and my spirit.
Recently, I have been journeying with a friend who is experiencing her own dark season. I have prayed, I have listened, I have sent good energy (I live in Asheville, NC, you know), and I have loved.
This morning, in my meditation time, I began reflecting on how I could comfort her from my own experience or my own “lessons learned.” Here are some thoughts that filled my heart:
Be gentle on yourself. Take time for rest, for self care.
While it may seem intimidating or overwhelming, meditate on this season through word, art, prayer, or nature. Be willing to “just be” with Darkness.
You are not alone in your journey. Friends, family, and God join you at the table when Darkness arrives at the door.
Trust what you know and learn from what you don’t know. Your faith will offer you strength greater than you can imagine, and from that, you will learn what you are capable of–perhaps it is surrender, maybe it is a change of heart, it could be a heightened sense of focus or purpose.
It is ok to ask for help. Even an introvert may need someone to listen to her. Even an extrovert may benefit from someone’s quiet guidance or care.
Discover what you wrestle with during this time. It might be the “growing pain” preparing you for the next steps on your journey.
Remember that seasons transition slowly into each other. Sometimes there is a snow storm in late March but Spring does come. Be open to finding those small gifts of grace–daffodils still bloom in early spring snow.
Make friends with Patience. Patience for the situation, patience with yourself.
Know that you are loved in body, mind and spirit by the Holy One who holds you in sacred space daily.
If you are interested in exploring the hope of Darkness, I’d encourage you to read Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark. It has become one of my favorite resources during Advent.