A Light That Feels Like Darkness
There’s something about darkness. At one moment it can feel anxious, menacing, lonely. At other moments it can feel quiet, intimate, and safe. Tonight I feel embraced by it, sheltered by the darkness draping my room. But some nights this isn’t always the case. Sometimes I remain that frightened four-year-old girl with an imagination so vivid she can’t sleep.
And I wonder about this poetically paradoxical darkness- at one moment safe, the next moment scary- and I question how this translates to life.
I had a long talk with a friend today; both of us concerned about particular loved ones in our lives, friends of ours. Both of us felt discouraged and a bit dismayed at what we we’re seeing collectively. It seems an unmerry-go-round of unnamed and unhealed hurt is being perpetuated among people we care about deeply. Instead of seeing steps toward life, we’re seeing temporary splints and insufficient bandages for very deep and unmistakably bleeding wounds. (These are the things one thinks of while eating popsicles.)
And neither of us knew exactly what to do or say. (We both have our own issues too.) But we sat there in her car, genuinely trying to trace the roots of the havoc around us. Because if there’s havoc in the life of someone you love, it becomes your havoc too. Just as their joy also becomes your joy. And no one likes to see people they love in pain- especially if their “pain-solution” is really creating additional pain than the mere source itself.
And we talked about vulnerability. We talked about how so much of the problem comes from our fear of being known- to others and to ourselves. We are terrified of being truly known, and we’re terrified of being accountable.
We talked about community- a tired, old, religious, PTA-reminiscent word- and how we don’t see authentic community really happening. (Let’s swap the word “community” for the word “knowing.”) There can be no real “knowing” without a brave level of self-disclosure and its bedfellow, trust. Where there is community without transparency, without honesty, there’s no community at all. Only proximity.
My guess is that we run from authentic relationships- even friendships- because we don’t want anyone to see who we are. This is a definite red flag that scares me. If we’re afraid of being known, we have to ask ourselves why.
It could be we are too closely identifying with our demons- our shadow self, our baggage, or whathaveyou. But we cannot live our lives crippled by layers of shame.
Or perhaps we evade being fully known because we can’t embrace our own glory. Either we cannot see it or we cannot understand it. Or we’re afraid to embrace it or even to try. Perhaps we have traded our hopes for who we want to be, who we could be, and don’t believe it’s possible for us. Perhaps we have given up on change. We call this fatalism.
But we were meant to live in truth telling, authentic, trusting, honest relationships - yes, ones that deal with messes of the soul - because we were meant to live in glory. We’re meant to experience relationships that heal, not acquiesce. We need friends who will walk alongside us in the messes, offering the courage to face them and the reassurance that this is the good work. There is more than the unhealth we’ve settled for; there is life on the other side.
If the truth is the light, then the paradox returns. Light can be inviting and it can be too much for our dilated eyes to take in. Our eyes adjust to the darkness, and we call it safe. We put on sunglasses and masks, and everybody does that same thing- and nobody is okay. Nobody is well. But the darkness feels safe.
We need a light that feels like darkness. We need friends to speak the illuminating truth in the dark safety of love. We need relationships that are not merely entertaining but also life-giving. That’s the difference between acquaintances and friendships, affinity and love: one seeks happiness as its true end, the other seeks wholeness- knowing it brings true joy along with it.
Let us love one another fully, seeking one another’s good. Growing may involve looking at roots of death in order to bring about life, but love won’t let you face it alone.