Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sitting in the dark

The faith tradition I grew up in did not recognize acknowledge or celebrate Advent in any way. Ritual of most any kind garnered at the least a frown and suspicion, and maybe even a tirade directed at any faith tradition other than our own. And yes, I'm simply talking about denominational wars where our beliefs would get us into heaven, the church down the street might get a few people in, and the Catholics across town were all going to hell. Anybody that didn't fall close to us on the Christian spectrum must be a heathen and a terrorist. It was a harsh way to grow up.

The journey I find myself on right now opens my soul to the mysteries from many different traditions. I read someone's description on a blog just today of being a beginning zen-jesus lover - I like that title. The eastern traditions encourage us to be present in the moment instead of longing for some perfectly unimaginable by-and-by. The contemplative traditions help us sit where we are and be quiet so we can hear the breath of spirit. Moving away from a conservative evangelical position brings a depth and clarity to the journey that has been missing most of my life.

But I started this post with Advent. My friend, Jeanie (take a look at her blog - it's on my list) is posting wonderful thoughts about Advent. Reading her posts and pondering them got me to thinking about the dark. I don't particularly like the dark. I live for daylight savings time where I can bask in an extra hour of sunshine every evening. In times past, I've found myself depressed and distressed as the days grow shorter and the dark presses in. But lately, I'm not noticing that dismay nearly as much. I'm more comfortable with moving close to the winter solstice. The dark feels like a warm blanket instead of a strange and scary veil.

All around me are bright displays of twinkling Christmas lights - striving to hold off the darkness, to make everything around cheery and bright. Circumstances this year have slowed our personal Christmas decorating to a non-existent movement - all my lights still sit in boxes in the attic awaiting their electric charge. And I find I don't miss them yet. I haven't sat in the dark long enough yet this year to wrest the blessing from it. Honoring those dark times of year, those dark places within our own souls seems to me to be the key to really celebrating the light. Without the dark - the lights becoming harsh and glaring. But when I take the time to let the dark envelope me, then one tiny light illuminates my world when it arrives, without the need for garish displays.

Maybe our worry about too little light in the world results from our unwillingness to sit in the dark once in a while.


  1. Recognizing the dark is crucial to acknowledging the Light. If Advent, the waiting, is about the coming of Immanuel, we must embrace the dark that preceded the Light of the World.

    Renae, this is a great contemplation. I don't have any lights up myself yet. Your reflection encourages me to not feel guilty about that!

  2. For many years, an overwhelming sadness would come over me at dusk, and if I weren't busy, I would feel it intensely. Over the past several years, I have been fascinated by what Carl Jung said how we are to bring what is in the dark and what is dark in us into the light of consciousness. I've been in that process for the last several years, and I've noticed that dusk doesn't bother me so much now. Interesting how that works. And so at this time of year, I hope that the Light will illuminate the darkness even more, bringing new life from what has been disowned.

  3. You, too? We didn't celebrate Christmas, either. My reverend father pronounced it a pagan holiday...

    But no matter the traditions we practice, nothing will "glow" or feel right when we can't even sit in the dark with ourselves. Right on!

  4. I read this entry of yours just a few days ago, Renae. Yet it came back to me early this morning as I awoke, nursing my aching arthritic shoulders that can't seem to get warm in the deep of an extra-cold Iowa winter. The thought occurred that sometimes the "dark" can be actual pain, as well as emotional pain and grief. So often, at any time of the year, we need to just be willing to sit with it and not have a futile fight with what is.