Weary of Walking in the Dark

At the time of darkness, more than anything else kneeling is helpful.

St. Isaac the Syrian

I’m weary, and I wonder about you. Perhaps you are weary as well.

When I try and get to the bottom of this I realize that I’m weary of doing the next right thing. I’m weary of praying for my enemies and loving those who hurt me. I’m weary of family fractures. I’m weary of getting up every day and working. I’m weary of walking forward with so many unknowns.

Most of all, I’m weary because all seems dark and God seems so very distant.

Job’s friends would stop me right now. “Have you looked at your life?” they would ask. There must be some unconfessed sin. There must be some reason why God is distant, why all is dark. But here’s the thing – to believe that all of the dark and difficult things we go through are a result of our behavior is distorted theology. Jesus’ words in the book of Matthew are clear: “for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” In fact, in the Old Testament, the Psalmist is constantly asking why the evil prosper and do well, seemingly free of trouble, something that turns a health and wealth gospel upside down.

Sometimes there is not an earthly answer. Sometimes all we get is silence. Sometimes darkness is everywhere we turn.

It’s in this season that I have taken to reading the book Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor. This book is an interesting study on darkness. When asked in an interview what her ‘working definition’ of darkness was, she said this:

Darkness is everything I do not know, cannot control, and am often afraid of. But that’s just the beginner’s definition. If I am a believer in God, then darkness is also where God dwells. God may also be frightening and uncontrollable and largely unknown to me, yet I decide to trust God anyway.

Barbara Brown Taylor in Religion News Services 2012

Taylor’s search led her to explore darkness literally and metaphorically. Through exploring a cave; being led in complete darkness by a blind person, physically experiencing life through her other senses; and by spending the night in a solitary cabin with no light to be found, she experienced the physical absence of light. Beyond that is her deep exploration of “dark nights of the soul” and how the physical experience of dark can perhaps teach us something of the spiritual. Her search is not to diminish the need for light, rather, she wants the reader to appreciate the importance of darkness both physically and spiritually.

The book is marvelously free of platitudes and that in itself is a gift for me in this season. But it is also a reminder of a truth I know, but regularly need reminders. When we are in hard, dark places, God may seem distant, but He is as fully present as in the light. He dwells there with us. Psalm 139 verse 12 reassures me of this: “Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

So here in the dark, where I am exhausted in weariness, where I have no words, and where the way forward seems absent of light, will you join me in a quest to believe it is okay, to believe that he is here with us in the dark? To sit as companions, free of clichéd conversation, and know he can be trusted? I don’t have much beyond that for you today – but perhaps that is enough.

“Even when light fades and darkness falls–as it does every single day, in every single life–God does not turn the world over to some other deity…Here is the testimony of faith; darkness is not dark to God; the night is as bright as the day.”

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

Coming up Empty

What do you do when you come up empty? 

My pen is poised but I come up empty. Thoughts should be swirling – there are enough ideas to last a life time in the city. But my eyes are not communicating to my brain, and my brain is not communicating to my pen. I feel like I have nothing of substance to say.

It’s this that tells me I need a break, need to rest awhile. My tired body and brain are on overdrive and it shows in my inability to create.

This happens in life. We come up empty. Like being in line at a fruit stand longing for the taste of the golden banana, ripe enough but not too ripe; or the deep red strawberries, plumper than we’ve ever seen – only to find that we have no money; our purse or pockets are empty. The disappointment is acute and though we may try bribing or bargaining our way into the grace of the fruit stand man, we rarely walk away with what we planned.

Unlike the fruit stand, I don’t have to bargain or bribe my way out of this. “Seek the Lord and his strength” I am told in the Book by my bedside. “Seek his presence continually.”* the written words speak and challenge from the page.

My job is to keep writing and rest in the outcome. Keep trusting that words will come, put together just as my Creator intends. And to rest in the God who knows my frame.

I don’t know where you are today – but I know that there are times where life comes up empty and blank.  Perhaps this is when we are most willing and ready to have God write our page in words that are powerful with ink that won’t fade.

What do you do when you come up empty? 

*1 Chronicles 16:11