I see the sun for about twenty seconds on a given weekday. I fall in its’ path as I pull up on the rising freeway on my way to work. I watch it pour and sparkle across the snow shrouded homes and rows of trees until it comes on my face as I stare longingly into it. It gets dark very early now, so I know I won’t see the sun until this time tomorrow.
I’m in a darkness I do not understand. Winter, for me, always arrives in different degrees of intensity. Some seasons are very hard, then others, I can manage. Consistently, though, the darkness seems to play into some inner angst: I come swimming into the winter, working my way toward wellness, and I am at once hit by wave after wave of bitter cold wind and shorter and sharper days, but this winter is somehow different.
This winter, I know who I am and I love myself. All things inside are chirping away happily. All things considered, I have a clean bill of emotional health.
So maybe I should count it a blessing that this winter, I am not so inwardly focused. I am staring out. Eyes are wide open. Maybe I would, maybe I could, count blessings, if I wasn’t pinned on my back by the dark of the world. It is a fallen wall on top me. The whole world is groaning. I hear it, I see it and I cannot stop.
I felt it first in the force of a six-year-olds’ anger: a small boy who tells me he likes to hurt people, whispers death threats on his teachers, and says red is favorite color because of blood. No matter how much I affirm him as good and kind inside, his haunting words keep coming out. And I can’t help, but wonder if God is asleep at the wheel with this boy.
The dark floods in again with the News and my inbox, suddenly filled with real stories of sexual abuse. And it is such heavy dark.
Two people stood on the church stage the other night, both recovering addicts, both telling their stories of failed suicide attempts. For one, the rope broke. For the other, the gun jammed. We stood in applause at the God that surely intervened, shoving them away from the abyss, but I couldn’t stop thinking about those for whom the rope held strong, the gun didn’t jam. Those in violent neighborhoods with bullets flying into their house. The family in Syria there, then gone. The unpredictable dark that keeps torpedoing all around us, and we’re so selective in how we question it.
It’s enough to make faith feel foolish.
It doesn’t help me when I hear one pastor (just the other night) launch into an exhortation about how “if you’re praying to Allah, you’re in trouble. If you’re praying to Buddha, you’re in trouble. We all have to bow down to the one true King.” There are other less toxic expressions, like God is God, and I am limited, and He’s Got a Purpose, but all in all, it’s the same rug covering of the hard questions no one wants to ask.
Because what about the Muslims? The Buddhists? Those raised to believe in something else entirely? What about those non-believers departed in successful suicides? What about the abused? The refugees crawling toward the border? The very old one suffering endlessly in a nursing home, ready for this all to be done?
What about the six-year-old boy becoming one with the darkness?
I am confused. I am looking up, like Sarah Bessey, asking, “where are you? Wake up! Take over! Heal! Be!”
I am looking still.
I am waiting in the grief of longing. Of wanting my faith to fit in this world that is densely dark. I am letting Advent come to me, try and prove me wrong. I am hanging on to the early sight of sun. I am clutching my pouch of mustard seeds. I am trying and waiting and hoping, not in the impossible answers to arrive, but in some kind of real peace. The one that isn’t trite, that isn’t phony, that is not a rug. The one that sails this faith into the deep of the darkness and remains unaffected, floating, strong.