We all begin in the dark. A tiny seed of life potential sewn into the body of a mother in total darkness. Somehow, remaining in this utter darkness for a period of time is a very important element in becoming what we are created to be.
Jesus compares the children of God to a good seed planted into mother earth. (Matt 13:24-43) In our spiritual journey, we are like a seed with great potential, planted underground. If we are to become who we are created to be, that image of ourselves that God has imprinted upon our very souls, at some point along the way, we have to learn how to see our way forward in the dark.
Just like a tiny seed bursting into life underground, growing roots in the deeper darkness as it shoots its tender, life bearing limbs towards the light of the surface, we also must risk becoming in some very dark, uncomfortable, maybe even claustrophobic spaces. In the darkness, we learn to depend on something we cannot see with our physical eyes, Spirit. Spirit becomes the light we move towards, what we yearn for, need and require in order to grow. In this darkness we develop our spiritual intuition.
We all experience times in our lives when there seems to be no guiding light whatsoever. Times of seemingly unbearable pain, grief, sadness, loss, disappointment, disaster, times when we feel trapped by life’s circumstances. We may feel overwhelmed and think that there are no answers or solutions. St. John of the Cross called this period of spiritual trials, the “dark night of the soul.” It is the time between a major life disruption, a time of darkness, and the place where we have not yet reached a spiritual stabilization or awakening. It can last weeks, months or years. He wrote volumes of poetry about his own “dark night” experience while imprisoned for his radical religious beliefs in a cell with hardly any light. During this time, he learned to see light in the darkness and it liberated him from his suffering. It was to be the critical passage of his own spiritual journey. His writings of learning to see in the dark have inspired millions to perceive the value of a life passage through a dark time and have words and images to navigate through it.
Just as our eyes use light to produce images that send information to the brain about what to think and do, our hearts need to discern a spiritual light within to find the way forward in dark times. The darkness has work to do in us if we allow it. But so often, we avoid the kind of emotional pain we might risk feeling in the dark times of our lives.
We have developed a very strong pain numbing culture and become dependent upon all kinds of artificial light. Most of us spend our days staring at a computer screen and then go home to stare at T.V. screens and go to bed with the bright, electric lights from the outside burning through our windows. This is just modern life. The point is, we need to take some time to turn off the kind of light that distracts us in order to fully experience the work of the darkness within.
We are all packed with painful information inside that we need to feel, process and turn over to a Higher Power in order to grow. If we continue to numb it and ignore it, the darkness cannot do its natural work in us, our emotional life becomes stagnant and expresses itself in negative ways. It seems that if we cannot grow into a spiritual maturity, the kind of soul birth and journey that Jesus proposes, then we go the opposite direction, we decay.
In our culture, we have all kinds of ways of making death look like life, but we are smart people. God has equipped us all with great internal sensors. At some point along the way, we get tired of our own tricks. We reach a point when we can no longer sustain the patterns of anxiety, addiction, co-dependence and all kinds of artificial ways of dealing with internal pain. This crisis point is often where the dark night begins.
Jesus points to a pathway that enables us to become real, authentic, and grow into what we are created to be. To find a higher strength and power that enables us to flourish, even and especially in a dark and darkening world. He tells us that the children of God are meant to shine like the sun, but only after we learn how to bloom in the darkness. (v. 43)
The faith journey is about learning to see in the dark and sharing the hope we find there with others. We bring jewels out of the caves of our dark times and share them with the world. We help others find the way in the darkness. In my own experience, these times of the dark night are when God sends the angels, God in human skin, to point the way forward, a thing that is perceived with spiritual sight. (v. 41) Apparently, the dark night of the soul is where they like to hang out. Perhaps in that kind of utter darkness, they can really shine.
We often have to go through dark times in our lives so we can learn a new way of seeing, through the eyes of God. In these times we develop deeper roots, our sense of what we are created to be grows ever stronger, we surrender more of our own will to God, we become more refined in our faith journey and we learn to trust an inner truth. Eventually, God brings us to the other side and we reach a new level in our faith. We even look back on our times of suffering with a sweetness, a fondness for how we fell ever more deeply in love with God, with people and with what we were put here to do on this earth.
So have faith in your dark times, embrace them, walk through them, know that God is doing something very special in you and will bring you through it to the other side, a place of joy, sweetness and growth. Sometimes we have to sit in the darkness until we learn how to see the light. When we develop this way of seeing, we begin to burst into new life.
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