Learning to Walk in the Dark
Just reading through this latest book from Barbara Brown Taylor, I’ve always been fascinated by the amount of times God comes in the darkness.. at night… in the mystery and struggle. From the top of Sinai, Moses received a foreboding invitation to meet with God. He entered the dark cloud in order to find Him… no one else dared. Perhaps that’s how and why Moses came to not just do great things for God but to be His friend. He was willing to go to the scary, obscure, mysterious, dark places… willing to take the risk – to journey to the spot where God would be encountered and our own fears might not be relieved after all… maybe after encountering, struggling with the real God, we end up weaker instead of stronger (like Jacob?) or broken instead of solid (like Peter?) or dependent for His glory (like Paul?). An uncontrollable God – that’s what He offers when He offers us Himself.
We seem to have this love affair with all things easy and comfy. We want our faith to be like that too. We want a teddy bear for a God – who gives us the desire of our hearts (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’)- and by that we often mean whatever we want or think we need. We resist wrestling with a God who will realign us to a posture of dependence, weakness and surrender. We are afraid of that kind of faith – we want easy answers for a shallow faith – just enough to make us feel better for the immediate future but not enough to change our lives.
A powerful step (once we're entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character) is encountering God in the dark. It’s a fascinating step to do while I’m reading this book. It’s about meeting God not in the darkness outside of you – but the most terrifying kind of darkness – inside you. It’s about taking God up on the invitation to climb the mountain covered in a cloud. That cloud, with it’s foreboding sense of danger has kept us away for a long time. But on this day, you summon the courage to climb – admitting that you are willing to risk everything, you encounter the God that you can never really understand, and the God who completely understands you. And you meet Him there. In the muck and the mire of your own human condition. No hiding. No lying. No pretending. No controlling. Just you and God. And what you find is much like Moses, and Jacob and Paul, and Peter and someone near you in an AA group found... a God – uncontrollable, indescribable even, but full of mercy and compassion and love. Exuding forgiveness and grace and a way out. Not ignoring your condition – simply willing to change it.
For some of us that’ll mean strengthening us from the inside out. For others it will mean weakening us from the outside in. Whatever it takes to change our posture from defiance and self-reliance, to dependency, humility and honesty. It will mean a clean slate, a new day, a different you. It is exactly what the angels said when they told us Jesus had come into the world in the middle of the night and it’s what the prophets spoke about when they called him the ‘bright and morning star’, which is of course the star that shines at the darkest of the night to usher in the dawn.
I don’t know about you, but to encounter this kind of God I’m willing to learn to walk in the dark.