Unity of Birmingham Guest Writer Series:
By Jane Phillips
“I have leaned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.” Barbara Brown Taylor (Learning to Walk in the Dark: Because Sometimes God Shows Up at Night) Most of us grew up being told in subtle and not so subtle ways that darkness is dangerous—that darkness is the time when bad things happen. We have illuminated our neighborhoods with enormous halogen or mercury vapor lamps on every corner, so there is simply no possibility for anyone to be in darkness. My young neighbors, who didn’t grow up with depression era parents as I did, never turn off their lights. Inside, their houses are the same day and night, and their yards have bright LED spotlights shining all night long. In fact, the lights on the ground are so bright in most places that the stars are almost invisible at night. Barbara Brown Taylor tells a story in her book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, about finding an enormous sea turtle on the dunes of Cumberland Island, GA. The turtle had come ashore to lay her eggs and gotten disoriented by the bright shore lights, mistaking them for the ocean’s horizon. She had crawled so far from the shore that she had become stuck in the soft sand of the dunes. The Beach Patrol came with a jeep and chains, turned her upside down and pulled her back to the surf. The sea turtle survived only because she was found in time and roughly dragged back to her natural habitat. I wonder, how many times that has happened to you. More than once, I’ve been on the verge of losing everything, even past the verge. In my despondency, I could not see the path ahead. Other people who could see what I could not, dragged me back into life. Sometimes they told me what I didn’t want to hear, and more than once, I was forced to sacrifice my pride because my pride was standing in the way of living my true life. In the words of Barbara Brown Taylor, “it is sometimes hard to tell whether you are being killed or saved by the hands that turn your life upside down.” Things that we never wanted and couldn’t have imagined happen to us. People we love die, we lose our job, or our spouse, or our home. Our kids fall into addiction or depression. We suffer and feel as though nothing will ever be good again. Eventually, though, it may dawn on us that our “dark night of the soul” was our salvation rather than our downfall. Because of it, we are more than we ever expected to be. According to Barbara Brown Taylor, “The only real difference between Anxiety and Excitement is my willingness to let go of fear.” Through darkness, we learn to trust God. All life begins in darkness—whether it’s seeds in the ground, an embryo in the womb, or an inspiring idea in the mind. We incubate, we germinate, we create and are created in darkness. We can trust that when our life seems dark, the Spirit is stirring within and cooking up something amazing. Our job is to listen and follow.
In the Spirit, Jane
Jane Philips is a retired Special Education teacher, Licensed Professional Counselor, and Licensed Massage Therapist. She has also lead Spirituality Groups, Wisdom Circles, drumming circles, and she wrote a daily blog for twelve years called Spiritually
Speaking. Jane is currently working on a memoir titled, Old Crazy Town. She is a fifth-generation quilter.