Today I was sitting in a coffee shop reading a book (yes…I was one of those guys reading over an overpriced Mocha) I was reading Brian Mclaren’s book “Finding Our Way Again”. So yeah…I felt ridiculously post-modern and young adulty, but oh well. The book’s overarching argument and topic has to do with Spiritual Practices and the need for them in our world and individual daily lives. I won’t go into all that he had to say on the topic of spiritual practices, but one of his main reasons to me seemed to be one of vulnerability. On pg. 164 he writes, “It’s only those who have come to love the light who are devastated by its absence — the dark night of the soul, a time when light is gone. ”
We all enter into times of our lives that are full of darkness…things don’t always work out, people let us down, we let ourselves down, the list goes on and on of things that could be considered the darkness. There is nothing more vulnerable then darkness. I feel it when I drive at night on a country road. My vision is limited to what is lit up by the headlights, and I realize that if something would happen to my car on the road it would be until morning till someone could see it. That is vulnerability…that is terrifying. When I was little it was when my mom shut the lights off in my bedroom that I felt the most alone and the most scared…vulnerable. The vulnerability comes from the lack of knowing…the lack of control, the knowledge that we might not be prepared for what is coming next because we can’t see it in the chaos of darkness.
One of my favorite pieces of advice to give is “There is strength in vulnerability and vulnerability in strength.” When we let ourselves be vulnerable we become open and are able to learn and grow, when we convince ourselves that we are strong and don’t need help we often crumble and fail. Vulnerability can be good, it can give us space to grow and change. I believe that is where practice comes in. Practice develops memory, practice develops skills that will be needed in the near or distant future. Spiritual practices open us up and allow us to more fully understand the love of God. The hope that goes along with these practices is that when the darkness falls and we feel and become vulnerable we will have practiced moving and living in God’s love so much that we can navigate the darkness with grace and courage. The love and understanding the we practiced in the light becomes our guide in the time of darkness so that we may be vulnerable and scared, yet not stuck. We grow from moving in the darkness.
What are you practicing in times of light? Is it prayer, is it reading scripture, is it being in community, is it working for others, is it worship in a community? Whatever your practice is …do it! I hope that while you develop these skills in the light you will remember them in the darkness…they will be what guides you and allows possibility to flourish in the darkness.