2020 has felt like “the longest year,” this advent has felt like the “longest advent,” and, if we are honest, we do not know what we are waiting for. A few weeks ago I read part of John of the Cross’ dark night of the soul.
This 16th century poem, written in five stanza’s of eight lines each, narrates the journey the soul takes as it becomes united with God. The poem, which shows the importance of contemplation in our Christian journey, speaks of a presence in absence. As we contemplate God in the darkness of the night we are drawn to a closer union; our emptiness is filled by the presence of God.
And, if you think, this kind of idea is a quaint trait of 16th century mystics, I recently came across the soul moving song “After the Storm,” performed by Mumford & Sons. In this song we encounter a set of profound spiritual truths which can be hard to understand.
“And after the storm, I run and run as the rains come. And I look up, I look up, on my knees and out of luck, I look up.”
I wonder when you were last on your knees. When you last encountered a “dark night” of the soul. Christian life is full of such moments. No matter how positive we make faith look, we all face dark nights. We all face moments where we fall to our knees in the middle of the storm.
We all face moments when we want to look up and scream.
It is interesting that these moments, these experiences of darkness tend to push out the positive. They outweigh any good and make us want to focus on the dark. To stay in it, alone.
“Night has always pushed up day. You must know life to see decay. But I won’t rot, I won’t rot. Not this mind and not this heart, I won’t rot.”
Yes, it is easy to focus on the darkness, but both St. John and Mumford & Son’s
allude to a greater truth. The truth that we are not alone.
“And I took you by the hand. And we stood tall, And remembered our own land, What we lived for.”
One of the blessings of advent is that it opens up a new opportunity. As we prepare for a king we are reminded that God came to us. We are reminded that we do not need to perform religious acts, or build taller towers, but in fact God leans down and meets us in the form of a child. Emmanuel, God with us. God comes to us and meets us, often in the darkness, and shows us love.
“And now I cling to what I knew. I saw exactly what was true. But oh no more. That’s why I hold, That’s why I hold with all I have. That’s why I hold.”
Once you have seen the truth. Once you have encountered the love shining in the darkness it is hard to turn back. Even when the tears blind us, or the pain cripples us, we can hold onto something else and in the midst of the darkness we can abandon our pain and greet the one who calls us by name.
I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.
On this, the darkest of nights, I am reminded that we all have darkness to face. We all have things that we hide in the storm. Yet, in the midst of the storm, we are not alone. We encounter one who offers us rest. He may not take away the pain, or solve the problem, but as the tears flow and the rain falls, we encounter one who wants to hear our pain. One who wants to take our sorrows upon himself and offer us peace.
On this darkest of nights, why not light a candle, play a song, and try and cast your cares on God.
there will come a time
You’ll see, with no more tears
And love will not break your heart
But dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see
What you find there
With grace in your heart
And flowers in your hair
That may not be tonight, but it will come, for the grace of God does not exclude. It does not stop. We may be in the storm but we are being prepared for more. We are being prepared for a time when there will be no more tears. We are being prepared for the time when we will see God’s face and feel no more fear, rejection or pain. A moment when all we will feel is love.
But, for now, on this darkest of nights, why not light a candle, play a song, and try and cast your cares on God.
For, the journey can be hard I know that too. But in the darkness God may come and offer you some rest for your soul.
I pray, that tonight, God offers you rest for your weary soul and a song for your struggling heart.
So, light a candle, and sit. Sit and wait for God will come and ease the weary tears. God will come and sooth the pain.
God will come.
Just as God came that first Christmas morn.
God will come.