by Sarah Van Diest @SarahVanDiest
“While those who are frightened by the primal energy of dark emotions try to avoid them, those who are willing to wrestle with angels break out of their isolation by dirtying their hands with the emotions that rattle them most,” Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark.
There is profound beauty hidden in the dark. It awaits light’s touch to honor it with freedom; to launch it into the air; to explode it into life and thrust it into liberty. It is the earth groaning under the curse. It is the body longing to be untethered from death. It is the heart of man separated from whole and complete communion with the Father.
We sit on one side of the dark wall wanting to find a way over; a passage through.
And though that day and its light will come, I wonder if today we are missing something good; if there is another way to understand the dark and light landscape of our lives. Is there a paradigm different from the one we have? A better one? A more complete one?
The rods and cones in our eyes, along with other intricately God-designed nerves, receptors and more, allow us to see the world around us, but they can only see what they are capable of seeing. The rods cannot detect color, but can pick up light with only one singular photon sent out from the light source. The cones can see color, but need a greater number of photons to even register that light is present. The center of the retina contains only cones, so when we look directly at a faint, distant star, we can’t see it. But if we look slightly to the side of it, suddenly it appears, because the rods around the center of the retina are able to pick up the faint light. What was invisible becomes visible. It was always there, we just couldn’t see it. Changing our view only slightly brought that faint star into view.
Transferring that model to our concept of the dark we may ask: What in our understanding of the dark are we blind to? How can we shift our perspective, even just slightly, so we can see more clearly? What information is there we haven’t yet seen?
|God is Light|
God does not need cones nor rods to see the light. He is the Light. All things are exposed to Him. After all, what is darkness to Him? Night is as day. Dark is as light (Ps. 139:12). All things are seen by Him. And He is there, in the dark. There is no place He is not (Ps. 139:8).
We run from the dark because we cannot see and are frightened, but He is there. He is there.
In the quote from Taylor’s book she talks about dark emotions and how they frighten us; how those emotions “rattle” us. I think it’s interesting that an emotion can cause another emotion (fear, for example: we can be afraid of being afraid). But if we have the understanding that God is in all places and that the night is as day to Him, we do not have to fear any emotion. We are not subject to our feelings; we get to choose how to respond to them. We don’t have to obey them. The purpose of our emotions is to inform us, even the dark ones. They bring information. Running from them, stuffing them, ignoring them, and not allowing them entrance into our realm of understanding is like ignoring the rods in our eyes and missing out on seeing the faint stars completely, as if they didn’t exist. If we don’t try to look at things a little differently, we may miss what our emotions are trying to tell us altogether. I believe God uses emotions to bring our attention to things.
The cord that runs between who God is and our understanding contains within it Truth. Encompassed in Him, not defining Him but defined by Him, Truth is held in His hands. We do what we are able to grasp it; holding tightly to it like a rope pulling us to shore. The truth the Father allows us to see and know is enough to draw us to Him (Acts 17:27). We do not need to see it all or understand it all to find Him.
So even if we can’t bring ourselves to peer into the darkness or wrestle with our dark emotions, the great hope of the Father is that we trust Him. Psalm 91 tells us to find shelter in the Almighty as we abide in His shadow and take refuge under His wings. Shadows are dark, are they not? Shadows are the place where light is blocked, where it doesn’t penetrate. God tells us to seek comfort in this dark place; it is a place of protection and safety. The darkness need not be wholly bad, then. We need not fear the terrors of night because of Whose shadow we sit in (vs.5).
We cannot understand all things, and we can see only what our eyes are able to see, but we can look at our landscape with the knowledge of His faithfulness. We can choose to see the dark as a place where He is, maybe even engage the darkness with our hand in His, abiding in His shadow.
Educated as a teacher, Sarah taught school for nearly 20 years. As a young woman, she lived in China amid the rice paddies and water buffalo near Changsha, and then later taught English in Costa Rica for four years and raised her two sons.
Sarah is married for the second time, the mother of 2 boys and the step-mother to 3 more. She and her husband, David, work together in their agency The Van Diest Literary Agency. Her full name is Sarah Ruth Gerke Van Diest. She’s 5’5” and cuts her hair when stress overtakes her.
She is a freelance editor (including a New York Times and USA Today bestseller), blogger (The Write Conversation) and writer for hire. Her first book releases with NavPress in 2018.