Darkness and Light

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

I went reluctantly. The day before, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, was a sad day. It almost always feels that way to me. I cherish the time with family - the relaxed rituals of food and football and game playing. There is much laughter and connection and memory made during our Thanksgiving days. I always feel a Sunday melancholy. I know well the hustle and bustle that so often are a part of the weeks to follow.

Monday morning offered three plus hours in a contemplative space. It is a monthly invitation to spend quiet, reflective, holy time with fellow sisters. Despite my sometimes reluctance to dedicate a morning to the pursuit of silence and contemplation, I almost always leave satisfied. Monday was no exception.

After thirty minutes of silence experienced within community, these words were spoken: “In the darkness, we may be pushed to make changes in our lives that we would never have considered otherwise. We may be forced to look at hidden wounds and inner issues that we had always been able to shove aside. We may be led to appreciate life and our gifts at a much deeper level. Most always, the womb of darkness is a catalyst for creativity and for a deeper relationship with God. Always it is a time for trust in the transformative process and for faith that something worthwhile is to be gained by our waiting in the dark.”*

I wholeheartedly agree and have lived the truth of these words. Yet there is also something within that fiercely fights against the idea of ever returning to such darkness. I prefer to live in the light.

On Sunday, my post-Thanksgiving doldrums were not just the regular sadness I feel when parts of my family separate out and away to their various places. That particular day also cast shadows of a years ago dark time within myself and my family. Things happened on Sunday that beckoned my memory back to a time and place that I desire never to repeat. Despite the healing and grace that I received as a result of that season of darkness, it is most difficult to imagine a return to that place. 

Within Monday’s contemplative space, an invitation was issued. Choose a bulb, the oversized seed of a promised flower, and push it deep down into a crèche filled with black, rich soil.  After spending time in the darkness where unseen forces are at work, a green stalk will one day push up through the dirt and enter the light. In time, flowers will offer beauty to all who behold them.


I accepted the invitation. I pushed my bulb deep into the loamy soil. My hands got dirty. Most often that is necessary before darkness turns to light.

During this advent season, we wait in darkness. Secret, mysterious forces are at work. The light is coming. 

* written by Marilyn Bender, former co-pastor of Raleigh Mennonite Church