If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is be dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day.
- Psalm 139:11-12 (NRSV)
Some of us fear darkness, others embrace it, all of us probably want to control when and how it overtakes us. But we can’t, always. Seasonal depression moves in. Circumstances conspire to plunge us into unknowing, the way before us entirely unclear. We fear the shadowed parts of ourselves: the sadness, the despair, the anger that seems to come out of nowhere.
We talk and sing a lot in church about the benefits of light. We are told that the first thing God did was to say, “Let there be light,” as if everything that came before had no value. We are told that both we and Jesus are the light of the world, that we shouldn’t hide our lights under a bushel basket. We sometimes live in a full-sun spirituality that can make our eyes ache with too much hard shining.
But light is meaningless apart from darkness. We need the respite of night, the salvific hibernation of a rainy winter day, the relief of tears. It’s not always about letting our light shine. Darkness can shine, too. Ebony polished to perfection both holds light and reflects it. The psalmist said that even darkness has brightness, and night shines like the day to our God. Every part of us—every feeling, mood and memory—can teach and strengthen us, even those we’d rather reject.
Plumb your own mysteries, what is secret and hidden, even from yourself. Find what lives there in shadow and silence, waiting patiently or impatiently to be revealed, noticed, honored. Be unashamed and unafraid of your darkness, for it has much to teach you.
Hidden God, there are things we can only learn in the dark and quiet, when we face our own depths. We contain multitudes. Travel there with us, and don’t leave us alone. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of First Congregational Church UCC in Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church, Standing Naked Before God, and her newest baby, Bless This Mess: A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World.