Recently, I’ve found myself in circles of people where the word “prayer” is not often used in conversation. No one seems to talk much about actual talking to God or Jesus. They just promise to hold one another “in the light.”
I’m not quite sure what it means other than sending good energy toward a person in a difficult or challenging situation or a desire for good things to come. And while I don’t think any of us would refuse such an intention in our direction (who doesn’t want a good life?), whenever I hear it I wonder where is God? What is the person hoping between me, God and my understanding of the Divine?
I believe such an intention sets up a light vs. dark dichotomy Light is good. Dark is bad.
Good happens in the day. Bad happens in the dark.
We are living close to God when we are living in the light. We are far from the presence of God when we are in the dark.
All the buzz in theological circles I run in these days is Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Learning to Walk in the Dark.
(Here’s my 5 second commercial: It’s SO good I tell you. You. Must. Buy. It. Soon. It’s a book that Christians will have in their collections for years to come because the theology is just SO good, SO fresh and SO timely for so many of us).
According to Taylor, we need not to be afraid of the dark. Dark is not the absence of God. Think of all of the Biblical characters who encountered God at nighttime or in a cloud of smoke. Remember Abraham, Jacob and Moses?
God is not ONLY found in the light. God speaks and dwells and abides in the dark too.
So as we seek to know the Divine, the dark nights of our soul are not just annoying times to somehow “get through” but opportunities to more fully Know.
Consider these words from Chapter 2:
The way most people talk about darkness, you would think that it came from a whole different deity, but no. To be human is to live by sunlight and moonlight, with anxiety and delight, admitting limits and transcending them, falling down and rising up. To want a life with only half of these things in it is to want half a life, shutting half way where it will not interfere with one’s bright fantasies of the way things ought to be. . . . Those of us who wish to draw near to God should not be surprise when our vision goes cloudy, for this is the sign that we are approaching the splendor of God.
So, maybe there are more helpful ways to pray than holding each other in the light. Could we consider holding one another in the dark too?
And it’s true isn’t it? Our lives are lived as much in the light as it is in the dark. As much as we know what we know, we also don’t know a lot.
So, then to pray for another to live in the light is to keep from one another the possibly some of the best (though painful) experiences of the Divine possible on earth.
What if the next time someone comes to us in crisis we promise to sit with them in the dark?
What if we helped one another embrace the dark by reminding each other not to be afraid, to keep walking baby step by baby step even if we have no idea where they going next?
What if we prayed for the moonlight to be tender and the howls of the darkness to be full of some comfort as our night journeys tarry on?
These are the kind of prayer utterings I want around my life.
Not Pollyanna promises of all will be well. Not pep rally prayers of “cheer up sweetheart.” Not even more light send my direction. I don’t want that.
But if the darkness is where I am or where I need to be then come be with me there. Remind me that God is not absent, even when I feel that way. Hold my hand, keep showing up in body and spirit and let’s navigate through this darkness together. Let me tell you want the darkness is like. Be my darkness companion.
Don’t let me not miss out on the smoke, the fog, the clouds of what I could behold . . God who shows up in darkness too.