Seeing Through the Darkness

Because we are imperfect and love so
Deeply we will never have enough days,
We need the gift of starting over, beginning
Again: just this constant good, this Saving hope.
– Nancy Shaffer, “Because We spill not only milk”

Forrest Church, an eminent Unitarian minister, spoke of Nancy Shaffer as embodying a world “riddled with epiphanies, her kitchen table an altar set for communion, her anger pure, her sorrow sacramental.” Her life was sadly cut short due to illness; her final book published posthumously being “While Still There is Light: Writings from a Minister Facing Death.”

“The light,” lightness, brightness, is not always welcomed. When I carry Tom into our front room – especially with the sun bursting through early this time of year – he shifts his head to avoid the light. He’s awake, but not prepared for it. Nor am I, thinking every morning I could do with a little lie-in. Sometimes the darkness is preferred.

Recently, the chapel’s Bible Study Group reflected on the famous passage, “For Everything there is a season” from Ecclesaistes. I was impressed with the depth people brought. For many, it provided words of strength: they read it as meaning “This too shall pass” Difficult times will ebb away, joy will return. I was grateful for their perspective, and couldn’t help but summon up the words of Julien of Norwich: All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

Until things are well, we may need this faith; but at times we may feel even that is a tall order. Some days even our faith fails us. Our anger may not be ‘pure’ as Rev Church puts it; our sorrow may feel useless rather than sacred.

As challenging as these feelings hit us, they are in a way necessary as well; they have their ‘time’ as all others do. A time for touching and a time for numbness; a time for hearing and a time for silence. A time for laughter and friends and joy; and a time for crying, loneliness and sorrow. These too shall pass.

Until they do, may we allow them to work their purpose, to prepare us with new understanding and vantage, to change our perspective to a greater sense of reality, and enlarge our compassion to broach the surface of the Divine. And may we, in those times of enlightenment and happiness, care for those whose journey has taken them elsewhere, that in the silence they may feel safe and supported. May they in time hear the bells of joy calling them back. And may we join them on their path.


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