The darkness deepens, the daylight shortens. Dark and more dark. Violence strikes. Fear infects. Prejudice multiplies. Sadness swells. Dark and more dark.
In deepening darkness, we wait for consolation, for peace, for God. “Show the light of your countenance and we shall be saved.” (Psalm 80:3)
In those days, in those dark days, Mary set out and went quickly to visit Elizabeth. A normal visit turned extraordinary. By divine power and blessing,now both Mary, a young virgin, and Elizabeth, a barren elder, are pregnant.
Dark days since they also bear the burden of public shame.The scandal since Mary claims pregnancy through the dream of an angel. Who did she think she was?The long years of ridicule for Elizabeth who had never born a child. Rumors swirling about why she was now.
In those dark days, Mary visits Elizabeth. They both believe, have faith in what they can’t see or explain. They embrace and exclaim, bless and sing with joy and gratitude, with heartache and question: “Blessed is the fruit of your womb.” “My soul magnifies the Lord.”
Mary stays with Elizabeth about three months. Imagine the stories they told, the questions they shared, the listening and weeping. Imagine the encouragement of companionship together waiting, waiting in the dark.
For many of us, waiting in the dark first brings to mind what we don’t know, what we don’t have, of trouble and danger, fear. We may also remember the wonder of gazing at the stars or the delight of catching fireflies. Darkness as respite from glaring brightness and companion to cool relief after a hot day. Perhaps a safe place to play, explore or sleep more soundly.
To God, we are always children. Developmentally not ready to know everything. God often keeps us in the dark. We are not ready for the exposure light would bring. Jesus said: “I have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12)
In scripture God often speaks in the dark through dreams, including to Joseph. In the dark, God’s people fled Egypt and went through the Red Sea. In the dark, manna came from heaven, divine food in the wilderness. God speaks, saves, and provides in the dark. At Compline, we complete the day with Psalm 17 that says: “Hide us under the shadow of your wings.” The safety of God’s shadowing, the safety and nurture darkness, like the womb, may bring.
Longing for light, we may forget darkness may also include God’s good grace.
Mary and Elizabeth bearing new life in their wombs, waited in the dark with uncertainty, shame and trouble, with promise, provision and faith. With faith, Mary sang of divine reversals: Gods brings down the powerful, lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry and sends away the wealthy. With faith, Elizabeth proclaimed: you are the mother of my Lord.
For what are you waiting in the dark? What do you not know or not have? What question or burden weighs on your heart?
Here are a couple suggestions for waiting in the dark, for praying the unknown, living with questions, for bearing heartache, and kindling faith.
First, set aside thinking, the seeking and probing for answers. Instead of searching for light, let yourself be in the dark. Look to images and listen to feelings in non-linear ways. Set aside logic. Engage with the arts, a gift for all of God’s children of every age. With pencils or crayons or paint, play with color, draw or doodle on a blank page or with a book, with a medium you know or have never used. Don’t think. Just be. Play. Imagine. Create. See what comes.
Stretch, sway, swing, skip, dance. Let your body move. Don’t plan or instruct. Let it come. Let it dance, express, reveal what it feels and knows beyond words. Step back at witness what you made, what happened in your body. What did you notice? Breathe and give thanks.
Second, visit Elizabeth and welcome Mary. Find a safe, trustworthy person and share what’s on your heart. Perhaps it’s someone who is having or has had a similar experience. Share together. Risk telling your story honestly. Speak up to share your questions, concerns, beliefs, hopes. Let another witness your life.
Be a safe, trustworthy person. Love others by listening well. Hold hearts tenderly. Be a companion. Weep with those who weep. Sing with those who sing. Offer blessing.
The darkness deepens. Dark and more dark. The Light is indeed coming. Not too soon. Not too much. God is here with us speaking, providing, nurturing, saving in the dark. Look and listen, coloring, dancing, singing companions, for grace and more grace right now. With Mary and Elizabeth, we are together waiting in the dark.
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