Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I recall a lecture I went to speaking on the subject of darkness. It was interesting that the darkness referred to was not necessarily that it was pitch black, or that you couldn’t see right in front of you. The darkness described was actually the absence of light. That no matter how hard you tried to find other sources of light, they just didn’t exist, except for one ultimate source of light, that not only lit the general area, but that also shone so bright you could see what was ahead. This story is more of a religious personification than anything, and I just wanted to reflect on this idea.
Many times it seems that darkness is something that can be prevented with a certain amount of preparation. Oil in lamps, batteries and a flashlight, kerosene and a lantern, matches dipped in nail polish, what have you. It is when we are lacking in these items that darkness overcomes us and we feel possibly feel engulfed by fear, lack of direction, perhaps a lack of understanding.
Imagine hiking a very steep climb, making it to the top, breathing it all in, staring at the peaked vistas, and starting to hike down this high mountain as the sun begins to set, knowing very well that when the sun sets, it will get dark. You feel you are prepared enough because you have a new flashlight with new batteries. The sun goes down, the moon and stars are not shining, your only source of light is coming from the knowledge you have of the trail and the destination or goal you previously mapped out. You ready your flashlight, push the ‘on’ button forward….and no light streams across the path. What is your next step? What guides you to return safely to your destination?
It is amazing to me that with one flip of the switch, light overcomes and extinguishes darkness, but when that light doesn’t work, what do we depend on? Carefully studying this situation leads us to criticize. We question ourselves thinking, “Why didn’t I start back sooner before the sunset, why didn’t I carry that extra flashlight, why didn’t I bring matches, why don’t I have another source of light to lead me down this trail back to my car?” We begin to envision being stuck on a mountain side awaiting a search and rescue team as they search for us. “Did I tell anyone where I was going, would they be able to find me, knowing that I don’t have a light to attract the search and rescue?” Doubt and fear of the unknown take over our thoughts.
So, here is the question: is darkness bad? Not when I sleep! ;) Can it be overcome? How do we find our way on a trail that we know exists and a destination that has been mapped? There was once an example used during another lecture about darkness being just as I described, not enough clarity to continue a journey, doubt and fear, not of the darkness itself, or being stuck without a light source, but the darkness being the unknown.
I know for myself, that when I am stuck in the darkness, not knowing where I am going is a lot scarier than not knowing where I am. Often in life we are faced with different situations where we are traveling down a path that is full of decisions that will lead us to other paths. We know where we ultimately want to go, but sometimes the path we are traveling on starts to get misty. It deepens to a dark fog, blanketed with uncertainty. We feel that we are still on the trail, because we feel like we are headed in the right direction. We rely on our previous experience, others' experience, the knowledge we have of the trail, our decisive and intuitive minds eye to keep stepping in the direction we feel and sometimes know is right. Then the fog subsides and darkness becomes us. The light for which we are searching exists in our destination. We just have to get there.
I hope that in each of us there is a hope that light exists past the darkness. Sometimes, we can stumble around to find the switch, but other times we have to rely on what we know in order to keep walking, trusting that if we rely on those other sources of light and in the destination, that we will see why that part of the trail - or period of time - was dark for us.
Is it dark because our faith is being tested? Do we have enough faith to get where we want to be? Do we have enough hope that there is light on the other side of the darkness - the darkness not being evil, but the darkness being the unknown?
So, is it safe to say that sometimes stepping out into the darkness is necessary for us to progress on the trail of life? I feel that darkness (or the unknown) is overcome when we decide to step in the direction we know and feel is right - the direction we know holds the ultimate light source.