Wandering Shadows

Announcements: CROP Walk is happening virtually (please walk and donate before October 4th). We are continually accepting donations for the food pantry and Heiffer International. October Supper To Go is October 22nd 6-7pm (pick up times are assigned to avoid congestion; please request a time or ask about delivery). Next Council Meeting is October 11 at 9:50am. Next Belfry Notes comes out in November (if you are not receiving Belfry and Neighbor’s Notes in your email or by mail, please contact us).

Luke 4: 1-3 Full of the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan, and for forty days he wandered in the wilderness, led by the Spirit and tempted by the devil.    

The Autumnal Equinox is on Tuesday.  It is one of two days of the year when day and night are in equal balance before the days begin to shorten into a time and season of darkness.  This time of longer nights and shorter days that won’t begin to shift to more light until later in December.  

As we head into a time of darkness, it seems a good time to think about our relationship with the dark.  If you’re a parent, or a kid, you might have joined us in the God & Nature series.  One week, we asked the kids to step out into the dark, no lights, no company, and explore what happens.  

Whether you took part in that or not, take a moment to contemplate what your relationship to the dark is?  Let’s literally consider what happens when we’re in the dark.  We live in a world of (literal) lights, it may have been a long time since you have been in complete darkness.  

Maybe we’ve put on nightlights to illuminate the way. To protect our kids from the things in the dark.  To protect ourselves from the things in the dark.   To keep the darkness at bay.  When was the last time we confronted the dark?  Maybe we flip on the flashlight.  Maybe we keep the front porch light on…are we afraid of the dark or what’s in the dark?  

It’s very enlightening, pun intended, when the power goes out to witness how reliant we are on lights.  We don’t like darkness, even for a short while.  It’s both inconvenient and scary.  

What are you afraid of?  What’s in the dark or the darkness itself?  

Fear.  It’s a powerful force.  

Dark and light.  Light and shadow. Where do archetypes of darkness permeate our culture, for good or ill?

Let’s consider, for a moment, what darkness represents.  At best, we have: shadows, night, murky, gloomy, shade.  At worst, dark represents the devil, evil, corruption, sin, immorality.  Death.  As the season creeps toward darkness, we have our holidays of death and honoring those who have passed.  All Saints Day.  Veterans Day.  All Hallows Eve.  And these are just of our own traditions.    

It kind of gets a bad rap, but it is in the folds of darkness when we get our best sleep and rest.  We don’t sleep as well in light.  We don’t sleep as well on the full moon.  We certainly don’t sleep as well with the lights from all our devices in our sleeping space.  It is in the dark that we rest and recharge.    Without darkness, there is no light.  I wonder if true illumination might be something in between dark and light, instead of something polarizing.  Only light.  Only dark.  One is good.  One is bad.  

Darkness, can be represented as the unknown.  The unknown is scary.  It’s not the dark.  It’s what we can’t see or don’t want to see that is frightening.  Sometimes we hide things in the dark.  

How we handle the unknown might help to illuminate how we handle the darker sides of life.  Fear for starters.  Fear.  What else do we push back into shadow and put on a light to avoid?  Where do we distract ourselves from the things that matter the most?  

Where do we avoid confronting the shadow side of ourselves and our lives?  

Why is Jesus in the desert or the wilderness?  Why is the devil there?  

Let’s think about the desert.  It’s big.  Empty.  Full of unknowns.  Probably dark…really, truly dark.  Full of monsters.  All kinds of monsters rise up in the dark.  In the fear.  

Let’s think about the wilderness.  It’s dark, enclosed, full of shadows. Full of unknowns.  Full of monsters.  All kinds of monster could be lurking in the trees.  In the fear.  I think of Snow White running from the Huntsman into the woods and darkness falls.  

Jesus doesn’t run away or turn on the light, he sits and waits.  He confronts the darkness. He choses to enter the desert.  He choses to be with the darkness.  He choses to confront the shadow sides.  

Perhaps the desert represents a time of emptiness to fullness.  Jesus comes out of the desert renewed and transformed. He comes out stronger and ready to face what is ahead.   That is what  the darkness has to offer.  

Think of a dark moment of life that you have confronted and overcome.  You didn’t overcome it by pushing it back into the shadow and putting on a light so that you could ignore it.  You overcame it by confronting it.  Illuminating it and looking.  Finding strength to be renewed and transformed out of the inevitable experiences of life and embodiment.  Coming out stronger than before.  

What happens if we begin to sit with the darkness a little bit more?  Maybe literally confronting dark nights.  Each time it becomes a little more comfortable. What’s in the darkness becomes less…unknown.  It becomes more familiar.  We become better able to handle the dark.  We become stronger.  Darkness is uncomfortableness.  We become more comfortable with experience.  

What happens if we sit with our darker emotions, our darker thoughts ,our darker history?  Or our shadow side?  Instead of pushing it aside and turning on a light to hide it, we really sit with it.  We become a bit more comfortable with it.  We become better able to handle it.  We become stronger.  We become less…fearful.  

Perhaps there are persons in your life that challenge you.  We all have healthy and unhealthy relationships.  We all have people we’d rather avoid than illuminate.  

Jesus went into the desert to become stronger. He confronted the worst of the the darkness to become better able to confront all forms of darkness.  He comes out of the wilderness able to meet the darkness of begin human and the ills of the human world with…Grace.  

A possibility for all of us.  

There is a little darkness in all light.  There is a little light in all darkness.  Perhaps what we seek is illumination.  Sometimes, darkness obscures goodness (I still believe the biggest darkness is fear), but it’s easier not to look.  Sometimes, we’re afraid of our own shadows and it’s easier and safer and less scary to look away.  

We are given our shadows, we are confronted with shadows, to learn to see the light.  And also to illuminate.  

We have dark.  We have light.  And somewhere in the middle is  that illumination.  Don’t turn from the desert, the wilderness, of darkness and shadow.  Don’t seek merely light.   Because somewhere in the middle is renewal and grace and new life.  

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