Then there is the darkness.
I hate the darkness.
Last week we turned our clocks back, bringing us nighttime a lot sooner. Where I live in the midwest, we are now in complete darkness by 5:30 p.m. For those of us who suffer from depression, darkness is not welcome. And as I work evenings, it can be even harder. My store is well-lit, but we also have a lot of windows that let in the dark. And there are days that darkness wants to crush me.
There once was a day when, at noon, the skies became black as night, and stayed that way for about three hours. It was on that day three convicted thieves died together. It is said that tombs split open and the dead came to life on that day. Some say the darkness was hell spilling out into our world. I think not. I think hell is filled with light and life and laughter. It is only in heaven that darkness that severe could block out this world’s light.
Darkness overshadowed our nation at one time to the point where many wondered if we would be able to survive. Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods only had one big-time hit, Get Together. (“C’mon people now/Smile on your brother/Ev’rybody get together/Try and love one another right now”) But they did a song that was an anthem for a nation cast into darkness by war and poverty and political mistrust in the 1960s.
Darkness, darkness, be my pillow,
Take my hand, and let me sleep.
In the coolness of your shadow,
In the silence, the silence of your deep.
Darkness, darkness, be my blanket,
Cover me with the endless night,
Take away, take away the pain of knowing
Fill the emptiness of right now,
Emptiness of right now now now
Emptiness of right now.
That is my anthem right now.
You can tell me all of the platitudes you like. It’s darkest just before the dawn. Don’t curse the darkness–light a candle instead. The darkness can’t extinguish the light. And I would say … well, I am not going to write what I would say. None of that helps when the darkness has closed in like the grave.
Yes, Jesus is The Light. But he’s not a light like I have next to me now, one I can turn on and off at my pleasure. He has no switch, no cord to plug in. He doesn’t take AA batteries. Jesus is The Light just as he is the Creator of Darkness. And somehow, in some way, God sees darkness as good. He made them both. Somehow we have gotten the idea that Heaven is only light and that darkness is inherently evil. Half of every twenty four hours is lived in the dark. Does that mean God closes his eyes to half of our life? Does he only exist in the daylight?
I can cry out to be delivered from the dark—and I have, and I do, and I am. This is not a place where I want to remain. I know springtime cometh, and the daylight will then begin to grow longer. I hold out hope that my money problems and health problems and family problems will grow shorter and the day will bring answers to all of these. And yet.
And yet I am in darkness now. To be honest, I’m very glad I don’t drink. If I did, I would be adding another layer of darkness to my life.
Music helps. But not songs by those who have never known darkness. As I write this I have been listening to Eric Clapton and Leonard Cohen, both of whom know darkness intimately. Because of this their songs—unlike those by happy-clappy musicians—somehow make the darkness a little less imposing.
Food helps some. I sent a text to a friend today to tell him he was the winner of the “I Get To Take Jeff To Lunch” contest. We met at Five Guys and ate some very unhealthy food. We laughed and he shared about a missions trip he was on this summer.
Writing helps. Maybe you will skip this and go back and re-read last week’s Saturday Ramblings. I wouldn’t blame you if you did. I don’t know if anyone will read this, but as an artist it helps to just create.
Friends … well, most would try to flood the room with light, and that’s not what I need right now. I think the longer I spend in darkness, the fewer friends I want. Most don’t understand, most are afraid of the darkness, so they loudly try to create light. There are one or two who know just what to do. They will sit with me, patiently waiting with me. They don’t talk much, they don’t try to explain away the darkness. They are just there, and even if I can’t see them, I know they are there. They know to text just a word or two, and seem to know just when to do it. Those two or three friends who can help me in my times of darkness have lived through their own black periods. Or are in them still.
The Bible helps. In times of darkness I seek out stories of those who lived in darkness themselves. I read about Elijah who, after the great miracle on the mountaintop, went off into the desert and wanted to die. Right there with you, bro. And I like how that God did not rebuke his darkness, nor tell him to buck up and light a candle. It seems to me that Elijah was foreshadowing Jesus who, after the miracle on the mountain, did go off to die. And that brings us back to our three hours of darkness in the middle of the day.
The Psalms are full of darkness. Don’t bother reading them if you think following Jesus will only lead to sunny, cloudless days. I don’t mean to be Debby Downer, and I’m sorry if you were coming here today hoping to read a few jokes and be told what a great person you are and how if you just do all the right things you will have a life of peaches and cupcakes. But if you are in darkness yourself, you know that no amount of self-talk, no amount of doing all the right things will keep the darkness at bay. I have done all the right things. I have also done a lot of wrong things. But having sunshine pumped up my arse only irritates me and makes me want to do more wrong things, especially to the one doing the pumping.
I guess if I have one thing to say, it’s this: Be real, and be willing to let those who are hurting be real. Don’t ask stupid questions. Don’t point fingers or offer homemade remedies. Just be. Be there. Be quiet. Be willing. I guarandamntee you that, if you are actually living a real life, not some fake, plastic-Jesus-on-my-dashboard life, you will live in darkness at some point as well. Come sit with me and get used to it.
“This is just a season,” you say, “just as fall is just a season.” I hope so. I hope I experience winter and spring and summer really soon. But what if it is fall with its early nighttime for the rest of my life? Can I be ok with that?
King David offers me the most comforting words of all.
Even if I am afraid and think to myself, “There is no doubt that the darkness will swallow me, the light around me will soon be turned to night,” You can see in the dark, for it is not dark to Your eyes. For You the night is just as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to Your eyes. (Psalm 139: 11, 12, The Voice)
God sees me in the dark. Even in complete darkness, he can see me. Somehow, in some way, darkness comes from his throne just as light does. He is not afraid in the dark. And so, perhaps, I won’t be either.
I love fall the best. Outdoor fires. Roasted root vegetables. Apple cider. Thanksgiving. And darkness.