Treasures in the Darkness
I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by name. – Isaiah 45:3 (NRSV)
When Advent last rolled around, that lovely season steeped in metaphors of darkness and light, I told my mostly white congregation I wouldn’t be using the term “darkness.”
Convinced by biblical scholar Wilda C. Gafney and other Black thinkers of the serious harm caused by white supremacy’s conflation of “dark” with things negative, I wanted to find ways of speaking the good news of liberation that didn’t reinforce the unjust diminishment of others. I also wanted to reject false binaries, to acknowledge that most things are more complex than our reptilian brains would have us believe.
But throwing out a common term can create still more false binaries, as well as deny the realities of lived experience. So I attended also to the wisdom of writer Cole Arthur Riley, creator of Black Liturgies, as she encouraged people of color to both grieve their racism-related suffering and mine it for the strength, clarity, and other gifts it has given them.
And then I went to Iceland.
There is no darkness in that spectacularly beautiful place this time of year; the sun “sets” around midnight and “rises” some three hours later.
When I returned home, I stepped into the deep darkness of my backyard. A multitude of stars, which I hadn’t seen for weeks, twinkled their greeting in the night sky. Fireflies, those frisky signs of hope on wings, blinked out a joyful dance.
And I wept with joy, newly aware of all I miss when there is no darkness.
For all the ways I speak and act that compound others’ hurt, forgive me and change me. To all the treasures of darkness, open my eyes and heart.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.