In the Dark

“He called the light day, and the darkness night. So evening came, and morning came; it was the first day.” — Genesis 1:5, REB

When God creates the universe in Genesis 1, He begins by bringing forth light. We tend to understand light as being positive. God is light (1 John 1:5), Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12), and we are called to be children of the light (1 Thessalonians 5:5). We get it: light is good.

But life isn’t all light and sunshine.

There is darkness in this world, both physically and in a spiritual sense. We experience pain, suffering, violence, and oppression. People starve, fall ill, are attacked, make mistakes, and leave us too soon every day.

Darkness is often portrayed in Scripture and religion as the enemy. It is the sign of evil, ignorance, and suffering. Yet all God makes in Genesis 1 is called “very good,” and in the initial verses God doesn’t eliminate darkness.

Darkness is kept, named, and maintained as an ever-present aspect of reality. As such, it is part of God’s “very good” creation. We may not like it, it may hurt, but it’s also how we are aware of light.

When a light is turned on, shadows immediately emerge. This is a law of life. What we know as “good” and “evil” are only definable in the context of each other. Both are necessary for wisdom in life.

Sitting in silent worship last night, I looked at my candle and asked for Christ to teach me wisdom. What I received was a message I have needed for a long time.

You see, I hated my darkness. I have a past, and though I’ve accepted that it happened, I hadn’t accepted that the person I am today doesn’t deserve to constantly be punished for that past… until last night.

What came to me was, “You cannot be the better man you are now if the worse man had never been.”

Have I made mistakes? YES! But paying for those and learning from them has led me to a place in which I am proud of the person I am now. I am not perfect by any means, but I am learning to love myself, and my love for others is enhanced because of it.

This couldn’t be the case if not for my darkness. The same is true for you and for all of humanity. Our darkest moments help highlight (and even produce) our greatest ones. Does this mean we strive to promote evil so that good may come? Of course not!

Rather, this message should serve as a reminder that where darkness is, light is close at hand. By the same token, where there is light, shadows fall. Therefore, we should neither be hopeless or complacent, but ever watchful for what God is calling us to.

Peace be with you!

Balance

the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people‚Äôs weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away. — Ezra 3:13, NRSV

You’ve probably heard it a million times. “Life is about balance.” Whether it’s off-setting your diet with a cupcake, your exercise with a day of sloth-like relaxation, or your attempts at holiness with the odd swear word, it seems balance is something we appeal to more and more frequently.

When reading Ezra 3 this morning, I was struck by the last paragraph. The Israelites have returned to rebuild Jerusalem, specifically the temple. Having been in exile, you can imagine there are mixed emotions when confronted with the reconstruction of God’s house.

Many of the Israelites raise a shout of praise (3:11), while the older generations, “who had seen the first house on its foundations,” began to weep (3:12). What struck me is that this is all that is said.

No one corrects the mourners.

No one rebukes those who celebrate.

All of the emotion, whether joyous or grief-stricken, is held in a single, glorious tension. The entire mash up of sound rises on the air and simply… is.

To me, that is the balance of life.

It’s not how often you nap or do goat yoga. It’s about fully experiencing the broad range of emotion and beauty and pain that this life has to offer. To live a balanced life is to find peace in the tension between our greatest joys and deepest sorrows, knowing a well-lived life is comprised of both.

We are in a world afraid to feel, and afraid to hurt. Our culture forces down “negative” emotions in favor of the “sunny side up” approach to everything, not realizing that to paint pain as abnormal is to reinforce unhealthy emotional processing and coping mechanisms.

My prayer, then, is that we will instead accept this Scriptural representation of balance. I hope we will be bold enough to feel, to sing, to laugh, and to grieve. I hope we will decide, no matter the experience, to just “be” in it. After all, we only get one chance.

Peace be with you!