Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Darkness: a Thin Place for My Soul

Today's SynchroBlog covers the subject of Darkness and Light as Motifs of Spirituality.

I like the darkness. I find it comforting. My eyes feel good in darkness.

I like fog at night. It speaks to my heart of shrouded mystery, and things yet to be discovered in the adventure of this life. Darkness is a Thin Place for me. A place where the presence of God seems nearer, and the unseen realm draws closer.

A simple reading of my Bible seems to set in place a specific motif of darkness and light. Light - good. Darkness - bad. This too is the cultural dynamic of these words, when placed in the context of spirituality. Many would call Christianity light, and Satanism dark, and therefore contextualize darkness as a bad thing.

So,what does this say about me that I like physical darkness, and am attracted to it? Am I a human version of a scary creature? a spider, a bat, or some kind of psychic vampire? Or could it be that the motifs of darkness and light in their identification with spirituality are not as simple as we at first surmise?

God separated darkness and light, and it was good. So the story of Creation tells us. The people of Israel saw the presence of the Lord hover over the mountain in thick darkness, and a voice spoke out of the cloud. It was a darkness which stood between the children of Israel and the Egyptians who pursued them across the Red Sea, and saved them from their oppressors.

In these three illustrations we discover that darkness is good, that the presence of the Lord is found in it, and that darkness can even be used to save.

Could it be that the typical motif of darkness as ignorance, and evil somehow blends seamlessly into the idea that darkness can be our salvation?

In darkness I look for mystery: like the God who hides in thick clouds of darkness on the mount, and booms with a voice speaking over my head with things too deep for me. In darkness I look for comfort as though I am hidden from the greedy eye of trouble by the shadow of His wings.

Strangely even difficult darkness has brought me salvation. In my troubles my eyes look up. In my confusion and ignorance I learn not to trust my own sensory perception, or mental acuity.

The darkness carries both the positive elements like the presence of the Lord, and it carries negative elements like confusion and trouble. Who am I to think that they do not somehow simultaneously live in this darkness together, and somehow swirl together in a storm of both violence and salvation? The worlds collide together in darkness, and I find myself in Thin Places where my soul is nourished.

25 comments:

evan said...

Phil,
this was a fantastic post. The fact that you see good where others see darkness is so you. I love the references to the exodus. I forget those times where God worked in darkness. Like everyone else, I'm conditioned to uphold the dichotomy.

evan said...

Oh, and another thing: I really hope you aren't a psychic vampire since we live in the same house. That's scary!

Pastor Phil said...

The fact that I am communicating to you through the floor ought to scare the beejeebers out of you.

Thanks bro

Steve Hayes said...

Way to go, Phil.

God is the Lord of the Dark as well as Lord of the Light, and darkness and light to him are both alike (Ps 139:11).

john heasley said...

I have always found fog and the darkness mysteriously pregnant, who knows what is going to happen and what could come out of the darkness in front or behind, maybe it does come down to how we look at things. Many will stand in the dark and be scared because they cannot see and do not know what is out there, many are excited because they cannot see and they do not know what is out there. We can either step forward in fear or in excited anticipation of what we might find.

Pastor Phil said...

Steve - thanks,

Loved your post on the Lord of Darkness. Part of seeing God in all things requires that we cross some long held boundaries. As Evan notes above it often requires dispensing with our dichotomies in order to see God in all things.

Pastor Phil said...

John,

Oh yeah - the fear factor! You are an adrenaline junkie methinks. I'm all about that excited anticipation too. I wonder how closely this is related to faith?

seithman said...

Wonderful, as usual, Pastor Phil. I too tend to love the dark.

Pastor Phil said...

Yo Seithy,

Yeah, I coulda' guessed that. Thanks.

gracerules said...

Phil - I loved your post - it reminded me that my most precious spiritual times occur after midnight. I am a night owl and love the quiet and peace of that time of night...although I do like to have a soft light, like a candle flickering,in the dark of night.

Pastor Phil said...

Liz (gracerules),

There is something all the more powerful about a small light in a dark place, isn't there? That little candle flicker speaks something to my soul as well.

carl said...

I agree. Darkness is picked on too much and I resonate with your last paragraph, alot. At the same time I think "light" lives up to the hype it has in most christian circles.

Woops, I wrote on this topic a few weeks back and meant to join in the synchlist.

Beth P. said...

I always think about the dark of the earth as a seed must. It's in the dark that it germinates, gathering strength and stamina so that when the perfect storm of light, heat, moisture and whatever else happens, it is ready, sometimes in a very short period, to sprout.

One of my favorite places to visit is the Desert Museum in Tucson. The amazing virtuosity of desert plants to thrive in that harsh environment almost makes me weep. Sometimes plants will wait years for rain, and then in a matter of hours will blossom in glorious color. Seeds will sprout after years of dormancy...darkness.

Sometimes I like to think of myself in the dark times, as if I were a seed---protected, mute and ready...

Thanks for this great post, Phil!

Jeff Goins said...

maybe darkness doesn't equal salvation but rather points humanity to face its own lostness and, thus, leads us to salvation. just a thought.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Carl,

You should join the SynchroBlog list. You can always hop on board and do only as many as you like.

Pastor Phil said...

Beth,

Wonderful illustration. Having lived in the California desert I know by first hand experience exactly what you mean.

Pastor Phil said...

Hi Jeff,

In terms of writing the post my references are far more poetic, and less parsed than a dry theological journal. So of course, darkness is not the salvation of my soul in a literal sense, but just as friend who spends the time to help someone through the throes of a drug habit can be called that person's salvation so I use the reference to darkness.

Yet, I am not saying that all darkness does is show us our lostness. To say that would still maintain the strict dichotomy that darkness is evil, and light is good. Such a strict dichotomy flies in face of common sense, and even scripture. For example: in the parable of the sower the sun and heat bring the death of the seed with shallow roots, and the parable tells us that coming of the sun's light tribulation and trouble. Thus light=trouble in this text. Ever lived in the desert? Common sense tells you that night is good on many a day.

Now it is true that darkness is an illustration of evil, confusion, ignorance and such negative things far more often that light, but as illustrated in the post, and above in this response this is not an absolute dichotomy, and literal light and dark are not intrinsically good and evil respectively.

Sally said...

what a great post Phil, I both love and loathe darkness, I enjoy winter evenings, but crave sunlight too...

..but I do know that the darkness can be a place of great creativity and does not denote the absense of God...

thegroundworks said...

Interesting post! I Will be back for other entries as well! Keep up the thought provoking commentary....

Pastor Phil said...

Hi Sally,

I particularly identify with the creativity element of darkness - no absence of God indeed.

Pastor Phil said...

Groundie,

Thanks for popping by. You've got a an interesting site yourself.

Gwyn dy fyd

kathyescobar said...

phil, oh so good, as always...love the tension of both, the fog, the mystery, the darkness, the thin spaces...kathy

Pastor Phil said...

Kathy,

Thanks, and thanks for being a synchie with us!

ded said...

men's hearts love the darkness...what is that all about?

SunTiger said...

And yet this is merely ONE creation story's version of light vs. dark. {There are actually so many creation stories . . . )

I might just write a new one: In the beginning, there was total darkness, and a fog that settled like a thick blanket upon the land . . .