United Church of Christ

Shadow Blessings

I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”
- Psalm 139:11-12 (NRSV)

We haven’t been able to decide whether a nightlight is the right choice for our toddler. She has a trendy one with a hue you might find in a nightclub. It’s the shape of an elephant, plugged directly into the wall. At the slightest hint of darkness, it shows up. Even if it’s the brightest time of day, if someone hovers over it and casts a shadow, that elephant shines a bright, electric blue.

Meanwhile, she gets her strongest, most uninterrupted rest with complete darkness. If we can black out the streetlights of our beloved New York City, if we go to a hotel that has complete blackout drapes, she will certainly sleep longer.

Any household that has hosted a toddler will know that the ability to rest hinges on the child’s ability to sleep.

And from that perspective, “darkness” shifts.

Darkness—the “darkness” that “isn’t dark to you, O God”—is a tough term to unpack. Darkness assumes an underbelly, an underdog position at the least. For the psalmist to see darkness as equal to lightness, in the eyes of God, changes nearly everything I’ve been taught to fear about the dark.

In the dark of sleep, our brains and bodies work on the kind of healing that can only come with the very deepest of rest.

So, for now, the elephant shines its disco lighting in the bathroom down the hall.

Our toddler has led us into the dark. Everything hinges on our ability to embrace these shadow blessings.

Prayer
O God, may we never have so much light that we cannot embrace the healing space of darkness.

Hard and HolyAbout the Author
Kaji Douša contributed this devotional to Hard and Holy: Devotions for Parenting, a collection of devotionals for the spiritual practice of raising, teaching, learning from, delighting in, and cleaning up after children. Order Hard and Holy today.

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