Wednesday, October 5, 2011

not afraid of the dark

Something that I have been thinking about lately (or over the last few yrs) is our relationship with light and dark, as symbolic concepts mostly.

Light is good. Dark is bad. (summing it up in a nutshell)

The symbolism runs deep in our culture it seems. It is found in nearly every fairy tale or legend or myth. It is the symbolism of the Bible. And it is woven into the idioms of our everyday speech. Being "left in the dark" is to be clueless or purposefully left out. A "leap in the dark" is to take a chance with unpredictable consequences. The dark is unknown, scary, and risky. It brings up feelings of being alone, gloomy, lost, hopeless.

It even seems to be coded in our DNA, after our many thousands of years of ancestors trying to stay safe - after all what child is not afraid of the dark at some point? Afraid of what we cannot see. Afraid of the shadows that make things less certain, shifting. Afraid of being left alone in the dark to face the demons that are more felt than seen.

I have thought a lot about the idea of faith and how it relates to darkness. There is a commonly held analogy of sorts that we must be willing to take this "leap of faith", taking a step into the darkness away from the things we know for certain and putting our trust into God (or whatever higher being we choose to believe in) and having faith that the light will follow. In other words, the understanding, the answer, the peace, solace, solution, whatever it is we are seeking and needing, often comes only after we move into this dark and uncertain place of trusting.

Then we wait.

We have faith that the light will come. Sometime. Eventually.

And I have struggled with this period of waiting.

And I've struggled with wondering what to do and what the purpose is of this time of unknowing. And then with deciding still to trust, even when you seem to be all alone.

I recently read this book which shifted some of my perceptions of waiting in the dark, however. (When the Heart Waits, by Sue Monk Kidd)

She talks a lot about the idea of a chrysalis. And this seems like a rather obvious metaphor, I know. But something in the way she wrote about it finally made sense to me in a way that other things just haven't.

Sometimes we don't understand. Sometimes we are frightened by changes that don't make sense. Sometimes we may be feeling a little reluctant, resistant, or even rebellious against wanting to wrap ourselves up in a sticky cocoon and hang upside from a stupid looking branch for an indeterminate amount of time, when everything seemed to be going ok scooting along as a content fuzzy caterpillar.

Why?!And then there comes into the whole equation this absolute necessity of patience. Because we cannot rush the process. We would frustrate the entire purpose if we were to yank the changeling butterfly out prematurely.

It needs the protection of the cocoon. It needs the time. It might even need the darkness to become what it needs to become.


And so then I started to think of other incubations or gestations.

A fetus in utero.

A chick in egg.

All waiting in darkness.
Becoming what they are supposed to be.

And then I came back to myself. This darkness I seem to too often feel. Darkness which seems to overtake and overwhelm me. When my seeking seems unanswered. When I can't make sense of anything and I feel alone and afraid.

Then I try, now, to feel the darkness as my protection, surrounding and embracing me. To let myself rest in knowing, not just that the light will follow dark, but that I need this time in this pupal stage, as a creature in waiting, to change into something else that I'm supposed to be.

And so I will wait, here in the dark.
I will be patient and trust.
And I will not be afraid.


Tricia F said...

Ok, I definitely want to read this book now. Thank you for writing about it, especially in the way that you did. I'm pretty sure she's from my hometown too, and I know she went to my college because she came back and taught a creative writing seminar that I went to. Nice lady. Thanks again for sharing this. :)

Jennifer Pelo Rawlings said...

I loved this. Wise and insightful. Thanks.

Colleen said...

Great thoughts.

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