Thursday, January 18, 2007

pathology of darkness

i don't usually sit on posts. i don't usually remain silent. but these are strange times for me, and silence is the better option. if you know me, well, you understand. if you don't, i can't speak just yet. this post, i wrote a few days ago, i'm not even sure what i'm saying. and it is a glimpse of darkness i'm not yet comfortable with. the pathology of darkness. am i admitting it is pathological. won't that be more fodder for those who like to judge? perhaps. but i have a feeling there are some who need to read this, regardless of what kind of snarls it elicits from the narrowminded set. i'm just too tired to fight, so if you've got something unkind to say, keep it to yourself. i don't want to hear it. it is not every day i admit this shortcoming, it is not every day i feel this way. so just for today, let it rest in silence if you don't agree.

i am reading the return of the prodigal son by henri nouwen. i love nouwen as most of you know, but we have some new readers and i say this for them. his words are gentle, yet precise. a tidal wave of truth. coupled with merton, these are my mainstays in the reading department. (just about any nouwen book you pick up will be the right book. the same cannot be said about merton. those must come to you at the right time, in the right order. let them find you, don't search them out. but nouwen, go after him.)

this particular book though it be only 139 pages, has literally taken me years to read. i started it on a weekend retreat with a therapist friend of mine, (i actually mention that weekend in my manuscript for those close to me who have read it). it was a gift she gave to those who supported her mission work to russia. she's an amazing therapist, but i can't name her now, because i don't do that. at some future point in time, i'll name names, but not now.

anyway, i only got halfway through the book. only a third, actually. i'm in the middle of the eldest brother right now and i think i was not ready to read more that is why it has taken me years to read this book. one little nibble keeps me for ages it seems. (oh, to write like that!)

here is the particular bit that struck me as profoundly applicable to my present state and previous couple blogs on darkness:

Here I see how lost the elder son is. He has become a foreigner in his own house. True communion is gone. Every relationship is pervaded by the darkness. To be afraid or to show disdain, to suffer submission or to enforce control, to be an opressor or to be a victim: these have become the choices for one outside the light. Sins cannot be confessed, forgiveness cannot be recieved, the mutuality of love cannot exist. True communion has become impossible.

I know the pain of this predicament. In it, everything loses its spontaneity. Everything becomes suspect, self-conscious, calculated, and full of second-guessing. There is no longer any trust. Each little move calls for a countermove; each little remark begs for analysis; the smallest gesture has to be evaluated. This is the pathology of darkness.

Is there a way out? I don't think there is--at least not on my side. It often seems the more I try to disentangle myself from the darkness, the darker it becomes. I need light, but that light has to conquer my darkness, and that I cannot bring about myself. I cannot forgive myself. I cannot make myself feel loved. By myself I cannot leave the land of my anger. I cannot bring myself home nor can I create communion on my own. I can desire it, hope for it, wait for it, yes, pray for it. But my true freedom I cannot fabricate for myself. That must be given to me. I am lost. I must be found and brought home by the shepherd who goes out to me.

no one wants to be lost. no one wants to admit the profound darkness that surrounds. but one cannot help notice how incapacitating this darkness is when it hits. were it not for honest souls who are not afraid, i would wallow in this darkness without a word of kindness.

but sometimes, i think people who can communicate, get to. i can write. i can write about darkness. i do write about that darkness regarless of the response. this is part and parcel of why i get to write about it. why i get to experience it. is it fun? no. it's scary. it's darkness. it's a cavernous hole of longing unfulfilled. it would devour me if it weren't for the certainty, the only certainty i've ever had. ever will have. that darkness is not the end. that we get to escape this land of toil and walk in the harsh light of day. perhaps not here. perhaps here your role is to convey souls from darkness to light (you don't get to do that without dealing with darkness, i'm sorry to tell you).

i've not come to this place lightly. i don't advocate it for any other than those who are called. it is and can be a pathology, but also a remedy to those who are powerless to reach their loved ones lost in darkness.

before i plunged into shadow recently, i got to admonish a dear friend about depression. i said nothing new. in fact, i used the selfsame exhortation i used last time. but coming from me, struggler with depression that i am, he believed it. it soothed him that my counsel was not just manufactured light and postive thinking.

as i've said, i've not fully explored the subject, it's halfbaked here. i've gone over profound points of nouwen to let him speak for himself. i'll try again another time when i have words. until then, let this hymn, which helped me through my dark night of late, bless you.

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide:
when other helpers fail and comforts flee,
help of the helpless, O abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour;
what but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's dark sting? where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.


Spencer said...

What greater blessing to hold than to be able to speak of the Master, the ever 'LIGHT' when walking the deepest valley of shadow.As Moses walked on the 'backside' of the desert, he was even then never alone, not his strength but Gods strength carried him to shade and water.John Bunyun many times jailed, once a jailer ask him smurking, "where is your heaven now" John replied, where ever my Lord is, there is heaven!

Deborah said...

I love the hymn Abide with me. I, too, am acquainted with the kind of darkness you talk about, and that aching need that feels like dying. The good news is that Jesus is acquainted with our griefs and sorrows, too. I think you're right that one doesn't really experience the Light until one has experienced this darkness, which leads us to the end of our selves, to our utter and complete humility and dependence. Which is might depressing to see.

Thanks for sharing Nouwen's writings about the elder brother. It reminds me about the parable of the two people praying in the temple. One is saying thank God I'm not a sinner like other men and the other is beating his breast saying, "Lord, have mercy on me a sinner."

Anyway, Suz, I pray that God will answer your cry and your longings with joy and peace and new understanding, so that you can continue to minister to those who find this darkness a consistent part of their spiritual journey.

Love in Him,


Miss Audrey said...

Darkness clothe me once again
In your deepness of despair.
Swallowed up, I grant no victory.
With the morning comes a new day.