40 Days and Nights: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark; Miracles Happen There
Urban Cusp features Dr. Stephanie M. Crumpton as the guest contributor on "40 Days and Nights,” a weekly series exploring the interconnection between the spiritual, personal, and social dimensions of daily life for Lent. 40 Days and Nights offers insightful, down to earth discussion on everyday issues that challenge us to add a little here, and subtract a little over there, as we go deeper in our relationship with God, self and others.
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, Psalm 27, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 13:31-35, Luke 9:28-43a
The wombs through which we come to life are defined by darkness. Scripture tells of a God who was present as the very darkness that called creation into order. In this week’s Lenten meditation texts it was dark when God proclaimed the Abrahamic covenant, and it was dark when God proclaimed Jesus’ true identity to humanity. Even with all these examples that good things happen in the dark, why are we still afraid of the dark?
The fear that many folks have of the dark is getting in the way of them realizing that God is often up to God’s most creative and powerful work when we’re in the dark. It’s hard to get clear on this when we live in a culture that bombards us with images and language that symbolically associate darkness with evil and God’s absence.
From childhood (with princesses symbolically dressed in white and villains dressed in black), to mass media representations that affirm lighter skin by devaluing darker skin, culture teaches us to fear all things (and people) associated with darkness. Symbolically, darkness is something to mistrust, and without a critical gaze, this lesson runs unchecked in the foundation of our thinking and even in our faith.
We hear it in our churches and prayer circles when faithfully proclaim, "Joy comes in the morning light," and "Chase the marvelous light!"’ Even here, God is on the other side, not in the midst, of the darkness.
I’m guessing that for Lent someone is doing their levelheaded best to make sense of a ‘dark’ situation, and it might just be helpful to have some language on hand that allows us to see God in the dark – not after it.
The miracle of the darkness is that when we can’t see, our other senses are amplified to compensate. Our hearing tunes up and we experience a profound silence that can scare us even more. What if this silence is God’s language for inviting us to listen from within? It’s that capacity to listen in the dark (and believe in what we hear as Sacred and good) that saves us. It is the moment when God’s spirit shows up as the beautifully dark, immensely creative power that sustains and transforms us. It is the moment when we catch the spirit in the dark.
Dr. Stephanie M. Crumpton serves as an adjunct faculty at Chicago Theological Seminary and family violence court advocate in Georgia. She currently resides in Atlanta, and enjoys writing about culture, religion, and social justice issues. Follow her on twitter @smcrumpton1.
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