The Limits of Darkness

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Meditation shared Sunday, November 27, 2016 as part of the worship service "Gratitude and Responsibility." 

The other day, my colleague Sarah burst out of her office around 4:30 pm and announced, “There’s an amazing sunset over Northampton and I’m going up to the fifth floor to see it.” So of course I rushed out with her.

On the fifth floor, we opened the door to the fire escape and leaned out over the metal grille – discovering in that exact moment that we share that particular fear-of-heights that makes open-work iron staircases uniquely horrifying. So with our heads outside and our feet in the building, we watched the last fingers of pink fade to gray over Smith College.

“It sucks that for the next few months, we are going to be in our offices for this,” Sarah said.

I should point out that Sarah and I super-love our jobs. We have the best jobs in this entire town. Maybe in the entire world. I did not ever imagine that I would grow up to have a job I loved so much.

But no matter how much one loves one’s job, it is entirely unreasonable to miss the daylight, and the spectacular daily conclusion of the daylight, for weeks on end.

The dark time takes a toll on me, no matter the conditions of my life in any given year. And this year, like many of us, I am carrying a darkness upon my heart that makes this dark time especially hard to face. In the last few weeks I have felt more afraid for my personal safety, for the safety of my neighbors and loved ones, and for our children’s futures, than I ever have.

But the words I said to Sarah about our missing sunsets reminded me of something I believe, a faith I can draw upon in dark times of any kind.

“I celebrate the solstice,” I told her. “It is part of my spiritual practice to note the shortest day, the day with the least light. It makes this time easier to handle. It reminds me that the time when it is getting worse is finite.”

The time when it is getting worse is finite.

This is an easy thing to remember to believe when I know when the equinox will fall. When I can mark the day on my calendar and look forward to celebrating with candles and gatherings of friends and family.

It is a much harder thing to believe when I am uncertain about the limits of the darkness. When I am grieving. When political forces threaten the safety of my family and the abrogation of my civil rights. When my neighbors’ fears are fanned into violence, and I wonder if I will become a target. When I feel divided from and misunderstood by my fellow citizens, and I know they feel the same way, and I am frightened and confused about how to ever bridge that divide.

It is a dark time. And it feels like things are getting worse. But I do believe, though I cannot mark the day on my calendar, that the time when it is getting worse is finite.

And so, I will carry this faith with me into the darkness. I will remember to light candles. I will celebrate in community even before the last worse day. I will remember to share what I have with those around me. I will push myself to remain open and curious. I will practice hope. I will remember that I have been frightened and confused countless times in my life, and I have found ways to be brave. And these ways have always, always, required me to open my heart. And they have always, always, brought me more joy, more love, and more connection, on the far side of my fear.

I will remind myself, and I will ask others to remind me:

The time when it is getting worse is finite.