Waiting in the Dark

Fear grows in the dark.

This season of Advent darkness—it’s so stressful and hard for so many, and these weeks leading up to Christmas can be especially difficult.  Work, busy schedules, too many parties, too much sugar, all the considerable stress of the season make already heavy burdens almost unbearable.

And this Advent, words like repentance, darkness, waiting, wilderness seem to yell stridently from the pages of scripture: “Pay attention to the pain!”

Absence cuts like broken glass.

Disappointment hangs like tinsel from lofty expectations.

Bruised relationships seem severed beyond repair.

Grief bubbles out of containment as it has not in so long.

Night falls faster, inky black darkness all around.

And fear.  Fear grows in the dark.

In this season the fears multiply and expand, whispering persuasively even while the frantic world rushes past.  You will fail.  You will be alone.  You will self-destruct.  You will let people you love down.  You have nothing of substance to offer.  That divine impulse by which you seek to live your life?  Yeah, you were all wrong about that.

Of course these insidious whispers show up at other times of the year, too.  But it feels like these days, in the dark, they grow louder, so loud that all the determined, instinctual movement away from them just is not enough.  They roll in the darkness like a tidal wave, and there’s no running or swimming or working or distracting hard enough to stay ahead of that wave.

Fear grows in the dark.

But…

…what if we stopped running?

What if we just stayed?

What if we peered out into the darkness of Advent and sat in the shadows with the fear for awhile?  What if we held the fear close to remember what size it really is?

And what if we talked back to the fear and said: “Do you need a place to rest for awhile?  Do you need to get this off your chest?  Do you need to let your tantrum take its course?”

And what if the harsh, cold darkness gradually became soft and comforting, and there we were: hope and fear together…

…waiting for the light?

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