Dark Night

I hear that Teresa of Avila stopped praying for two years— years of struggle. She backed into a quiet corner and closed her mouth.

These days, I feel a little like Teresa. Silenced by a dark night of the soul. Dark night. I always thought that meant a time of suffering or depression, but I learned differently not too long ago. It can be just this... a fog, a confusion, obscurity, change, travel in the dark, unknowing. All because the journey has shifted. It is not always painful or negative, but clarity escapes us. Which I suppose could be painful if we fight it.

In the darkness— I'm talking real darkness, like on some night in my back yard— I realize I become a magnet for sound and fragrance. The rain tip, tip, tips or the tree branches crackle, crackle. Things blur. Water sounds like fire, ice like the opening of a wrapper. Unknowing descends. Visions of alternate realities push in... maybe I am sitting under a giant toffee and some night creatures are nibbling through paper to lick and bite sticky candy.

The smells of earth drift past... death, new life, openings, disintegrations, bloomings, fallings. My senses come alive to... I'm not sure what. And in these moments I feel the purity of experience. The illusion of control slips away. Things come to me as they will, not as I will.

In the darkness of the soul, I do not see God, but I hear and smell God. I cannot reach out and touch God, for I know not which bush He hides behind. I am left to myself. I touch my neck, trace my finger out towards my shoulder. I feel how very real I am. I am asked to grow up just a little more, like the way a baby is asked to begin to comfort itself in its own bed. The baby is not turned out of the house... shelter still comes from parents; there is deep watchfulness, provision. But...

So I am a baby in the darkness, asked to find that I can do a few things for myself, even as I trust that God is in the yard somewhere, loving me as tenderly as ever. And as I open my mouth to sing a little lullaby for me, it becomes a prayer that moves out into the night, into the heart of God.

Teresa regretted those two years of silence so much that, for the rest of her life, she strongly counseled people to never stop praying. For any reason. Teresa, thank you, for reminding me to sing. A lullaby, even, especially, in the darkness.

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Blogger Sarah said...

I know the darkness and the fog and how it is when he asks to you grow a little, and I love the picture of singing a lullaby in the darkness from that place.

Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Quite interesting, L.L. I am reading a book which paraphrases or translates a companion of her's, John of the Cross, who himself I believe spoke of the dark night of the soul. I think I've know plenty of that in my own life, and really am experiencing more of it now, myself.

I like your thoughts here. Likening it to a baby's necessary growth. Good.

Blogger andrew mills said...

I tried to leave a comment on the Higher Callings site, not sure it worked. Just wanted to tell you this is a great post. As a representative of the chronically depressed, dark night dwelling, super-grateful-that-there-are-people-like-martin-luther-and-charles-spurgeon-to-make-me-feel-better-about-my-own-depression group, this post really hit home.

It also reminded me of a song...


Blogger Scott R. Davis said...

thanks for the well written poetic writing from your soul. I at times have that darkness in my soul through the convictions as I attain a purity I only will get in heaven. And it can be tough when life is wandering around trying to accomplish stuff. and it can be like a fog.

Is that stone crossings still available. I forgot to send in the money. if so I will mail it in. just give me the details again and your email address. scott


Blogger Unknown said...

For weeks, I have struggled in this place of believing, struggling, pushing through the confusion to believe. When I shared with my love the fear of failing God and so I stopped talking to Him because of that, he asked me,"Do you think He didn't know that and still loved you?" That only made me put my head on the table and cry more! But I so needed to hear that at that moment. All too often I forget that He is nearer to me than my breath and yes, He, too, is calling me to trust Him when all around me is insanity, confusion, chaos, and to embrace His joy...why do I run from Him?
I grieve over that because more than anything I hunger to sit in His lap and let Him touch those places of fear, hurt, betrayal, and disappointment with His power and give me His strength to see what He sees.
I cannot fathom this love, but I need it more than my breath.
Thanks for articulating my thoughts!
You encourage me by your transparency.

Blogger Shosannah said...

This was so beautiful for me to read right now.
Though he is here I have been groping around in the dark for sometime now, like a child in the middle of the night trying to find it's way to it's parents bedroom.
The things I thought I knew, I don't, the defintions have blurred. I know he still holds me close at these times. In my heart I feel like it's only because he is so close that I can't always make out his form.
I love St Teresa, I especially enjoy reading her prayers.
Blessings and Peace

Blogger Jennifer @ JenniferDukesLee.com said...

I was struck by the image of the baby in your writing.

I remember "sleep training" my babies when they were about 6 months old, that is, trying to get them to fall asleep on their own without being rocked or fed to sleep. I remember as a parent, how much it pained me to hear those whimpers (and full-out cries) on the first night. I was standing on the other side of the door, ready to go in if I didn't think they could make it through the darkness on their own.

Thank you for reminding me of this image -- and the reminder that God is standing with us, even in the darkness, and that he is NOT a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.
- Jennifer Dukes Lee


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