Rev. Rebekah McLeod Hutto, Presbyterian (U.S.A) pastor
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:5
Back in January I told the members of my church that God and I were having some quiet time. Borrowing this quote from a friend, I let them in on a secret: my relationship with God is too important to let the death of our baby girl this past December go unnoticed. I was holding God to account, and I needed some healing to take place in order for conversation between the two of us to resume. God and I had some quiet time for many weeks. I won’t say that I’ve experienced complete healing as of this Mother’s Day, but God and I are at least back on speaking terms.
One of the reasons we’re talking again is that I’ve realized that, although we promote a light-infused God in our theology, God does some pretty amazing work in the dark as well. The dark is where I’ve found myself since losing my daughter at 20 weeks last December. I have felt lost because my flashlight of faith, so to speak, is no longer big enough to see or predict my and my family’s future. After having the ground collapse beneath us, we have no idea what’s next. I’ve suffered miscarriage before, but the loss of the baby girl I was coming to know and feel in my second trimester ripped me to the core. Moreover, there’s no rhyme or reason why it all happened, why my water broke, and why I couldn’t save her. Renaming this darkness as “trauma” has helped with the nightmares and intense anxiety I faced in the months afterwards. But even though I’m in a physically healthier place now, the world continues to feel dark. How do we trust that we won’t be traumatized again by another unfortunate tragedy, not to mention future pregnancies? Even though I know and believe in the love of Christ, I’ve struggled to find the light in the darkness that John speaks of in his Gospel. Lately, putting one foot in front of the other feels like stepping into the cold unknown, and I’m grasping for some sort of direction.
Coincidentally, a favorite author and theologian of mine came to my rescue this spring. I’m reading and rereading Barbara Brown Taylor’s new book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, and she’s helping me see that God’s presence is not always about the light. The above Scripture text from the Gospel of John is comforting, and many have spoken these words to me in order to help me make sense of our dark tragedy. But in my desperate search for light and direction in the months afterward I forgot something about our God: even if the darkness seems to overcome us, God is just as present there as in the light. Taylor has challenged me to ask myself, “If Christ is already sitting with me in the dark, why am I so eager to turn on the light?”
God took Abraham out at night to count the stars, God wrestled with and blessed Jacob in the middle of the night, manna fell from heaven before morning, and God spoke to Moses and the people from a cloud of darkness. And finally, in that cold, empty, and dark tomb, Christ gave life to the most depressed place we’ve ever known: the resurrection happened in the darkness of a cave.
There is redemption in the dark. Taylor is reminding me to seek God in the darkest places of my soul and find that there is life even when the lights go out; and possibly even more when we can’t find a light to turn on. My Mother’s Day won’t be about flowers and sentimental gestures of hope. Mine is about sitting with God in the dark, trusting that wisdom and guidance can be found in the quiet, lonely, lights out, nighttime places of faith.