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Ruminating on struggles in the dark

I've written some about my struggles with the dark, and I really should write more (there's precious little written about these experiences among evangelicals). I think about that when I encounter a piece this one. It's a GetReligion post by Terry Mattingly about an LA Times essay entitled "Religion beat became a test of faith," which reveals one reporter's loss of faith as he covered the religion beat. Nestled in this reflection of Mattingly's is this nugget:

As C.S. Lewis noted in The Horse and His Boy, there are times when God tells each person his or her own story and others simply have to urge them to listen. We cannot hear their story or claim to know what they should be hearing.
This gives me a bit more of a grasp on why I've found my dark night experiences so hard to write about. Perhaps instead of a set of answers gleaned (which is where I often try to start), it is part of the story God is reveals to us, part of himself he's revealing--a living, loving, knowable-yet-incomprehensible Being. It's like trying to embody or reduce the wonder, beauty, depth of love and, yes, even frustration, of my marriage into a set of how-tos or principles. My marriage is about the deepening relationship between me and my incredible man. My struggles with the dark (at least when I come out on the other side) seem to follow suite, to be more about God's relationship with me and my growing trust in him instead of a set of answers, beliefs or constructs.

Don't get me wrong; answers and making sense of a screwed up world and God's work in it mean a lot to me. I'm asking and seeking all the time. And sometimes those questions lead to places so dark that whispers of doubt become full-blown banshee screams. It's not fun. It's awful. There are times, in the midst of those days, that I would give anything to be free of them.

But, for me, when I'm there in even the smaller moments of darkness, part of that journey is resting in moments of waiting. How? I rely a great deal on places like Psalm 88, Lamentations, Job and Jerimiah. I remember what I've learned: how God loves me. I remember where I've been and how he's brought me through. I remember that if God is who he says, he will bring me through to the other side again. And, as Mattingly points out, I don't live it alone but in a community of others who are walking towards God and willing to bear and hear my doubts, frustrations and anger. And I've been much more fortunate than I often realize in that regard.

But even as I write, I realize how little of what I say may actually reach, help or make sense to someone else in those moments of darkness. How do you trust a God you're afraid or believe does not exist? How do you wait in a darkness that is full of doubt, anquish or fear? I can't answer that for anyone else. I can only tell what happened to me. I can only tell you that, blind and deaf as I felt, God was there even though I didn't see, feel, sense or hear him. I can only tell you that I waited for years, like a traveler in the wilderness by a fire under a starless, black void. I can only tell you that in the middle of that darkness, I found moments--brief as they were--of rest and peace and paradoxial assurance. I can only tell you that I longed for God to reveal himself--and he did, but not in the ways I expected. I can only tell you I let go of the cliff I was clinging to by my very fingernails and he caught me, he caught me hands of greater Love and Wonder and Beauty and Grace than I could ever imagine. It just took awhile to get the place where I could look back and see that.

I can only tell you that, so far, the journey's been one of deepening relationship, which leads me to further trust that it will continue to be so. I need to think more about how to write about these experiences because they are important; they are part of almost everyone's journey, I think. Jesus even went there. And that, perhaps, is one of my greater comforts.

Comments

Questing Parson said…
My experience has been that it is the journey itself that locates me where I should be. It's what brought me to that slogan "Looking for faith is where you find it."
susie said…
I am so glad you are writing about this. I know sometimes one's personal mystical experiences can be difficult to make real to others--almost like telling your dreams to someone else--but somehow you have done this in a helpful way that I can understand even though I haven't had the same experience of the night. My darkness is more wilderness, a dry and thirsty land--yet I find much encouragement in your words.