Friday, June 1, 2012

on darkness

I just ran across the text of my chapel talk from the Women’s Studies chapel at Bluffton University back in March and thought I would share it with anyone who might be interested!


Today as we explore the theme of wholeness, I would like start with a conversation about what it means for us to experience seasons of darkness and doubt on the journey of faith. As I read verse 12 of Psalm 139, listen for the echoes of your own voice, questions, and doubts in these words of Scripture:

Even the darkness is not dark to you;

The night is as bright as the day,

For darkness is as light to you.

As I was reading Psalm 139 and thinking about our theme today of wholeness, I was immediately drawn to the phrase, “darkness is as light to you.” My first thought was, “No, God, today’s theme is WHOLENESS, not DARKNESS!” So I read the passage again. And again.

And I ended up back where I began:

Darkness is as light to you.

Since I couldn’t escape it, I decided I might as well embrace it. So, darkness.

Have you ever been there?

I have been. This year has been, in a sense, a dark one for me. Those of you who know me know that I love to ask questions. As a religion major, I have been equipped to ask big questions…you know, the dangerous ones. Is God real? Does truth exist? Can I trust God? Is it really possible to live faithfully? At times, I have found myself in places where doubt overshadowed faith and darkness seemed to drown out the light.

But our Scripture today tells us that DARKNESS is as LIGHT to God.

What does this mean when we find ourselves in times of doubt and darkness?

First, it means that experiences of darkness are TO BE EXPECTED on the journey of faith. The psalmist here isn’t afraid to ask questions of God, and she affirms that darkness is part of the journey. In fact, darkness is an opportunity to have faith and trust that God is indeed our guide and God sees only light.

Second, it’s important to note that the psalmist says that darkness is as light TO GOD, not to you and me. When we experience a time of doubt and darkness, it is NOT our job to see, find, or somehow create the light. Our faith should never be fake—real doubt is far better than false joy, because thankfully the light of God does not depend on us. For this reason, when darkness comes—and the psalmist tells us that it will come—we can trust that God sees the light even when we can’t, and that is enough.

Third, it seems significant that this verse paves the way for the most popular portion of Psalm 139. It serves as the prelude for the resounding praise of God as our Creator, that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” You see, the psalmist’s questions and doubts and struggles…the psalmist’s experience of darkness…is but one step on her journey, the journey that each of us are traveling—towards wholeness and restoration. Towards healing through God’s radical grace. And friends, the final destination of this journey is not darkness, but the praise of the God who created both light and darkness.

In my own journey this year, this has been the case. God has led me, like the psalmist, from darkness to light and from doubt to praise. I have asked the hard questions, engaged the times of darkness, and trusted in the God who guides me and sees light when I see only darkness. In spite of my feelings and my doubts, I have continued to pray, attend chapel, go to church, and study Scripture. It is all too easy to put these things aside, but I believe that our willingness to actively seek God in the midst of all of our questions and doubts is key to allowing God to lead us from seasons of darkness into seasons of abundant praise.

Another important aspect of my own journey towards wholeness has been community. We talk a lot about community here at Bluffton, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence; as it turns out, these people sitting next to you are a gift of God on this journey toward wholeness. In seasons of darkness and seasons of light, I have found listening ears, warm hugs, lots of laughter, and genuine support from my friends and professors in the Bluffton community. In some of my darkest moments, these people—many of you here worshipping with me today—have spoken the words of God into my life when I could not hear God’s voice for myself. That is true community— trusting one another and God enough to be real, to be vulnerable, and to let the light of God shine through others when we can’t see it for ourselves.

This is my prayer for our community today and every day as we think about what it means for us to journey together toward wholeness—that we would be a community that takes the words of Psalm 139 seriously and acknowledges that darkness is a beautiful and essential part of wholeness. A community that doesn’t buy into the lie that our faithfulness is measured by our ability to see the light. A community that is built on mutual honesty, trust, and encouragement in times of darkness and times of light. A community that celebrates the fact that the journey of wholeness is not to be traveled alone.