Darkness and Light are words that can evoke immediate impressions. Light is often linked with hope, clarity, or goodness. Conversely, darkness is associated with blindness, fear or even the presence of evil. But words are coloured by our experiences.
For a long time I feasted on the word “Light” and all it offered me – comfort and hope and new beginnings in a time of turmoil and loss.
Yet light is not always all it’s cracked up to be. There are times when light can be too strong and harsh – think glaring hospital lights, too much sun exposure; or beautiful firelight that becomes instead a thing of danger and terror as a bushfire rages out of control. Even ‘normal’ light, such as street lamps or computer screens, can become a source of light pollution in our 24 hour society, preventing healthy sleep and increasing the risk of depression.
So as we approach our shortest day and longest night, it may be a good time to think of the ways in which the darkness can be beautiful, comforting, helpful and even necessary.
I often experience joy at the moment of turning out the lights and climbing into a comfortable bed, relishing the nocturnal offer of sleep as the eyes close and sight is superfluous. Especially at the end of a painful day, when the darkness envelopes and secures and offers at least some respite.
I think about the beauty of a clear midnight sky when the stars are all the more radiant, or a full moon creates a rippling path upon the surface of the water.
Or the hidden depths of the ocean or an underground cave allowing new lifeforms to exist (although I must admit they usually look VERY ugly to me!) I love the miracle of the deep blackness under the soil, where seeds are waiting and germinating and new life and growth begins, unseen by all except the blind worms.
Darkness, however, is not a place I’d like to stay. The seeds eventually reach to the warmth of the sunlight, the restful night gives strength to a new day, the stars and moon are offerings of light against the black sky. The shortest day will come and go, and a part of me sees hope, knowing that the long, cold winter will always end.
May our lives hold soft and comforting and growth-filled darkness as well as joyous and open and brilliant times of light. And when the light is too harsh or the darkness is too daunting, may we have God and friends and family to offer us shade or a candle of comfort.