At the beginning of 2014, I couldn't have anticipated all that this past year would hold. At this time last year, I had recently moved into Lawndale, learning how to be a good neighbor, and I hadn't even applied to graduate school. Today, I am one term in, and living on the other side of the country. It just goes to show that when a new year dawns, we're in for a journey of unrest, joy, and new beginnings.
On New Year's Day I joined with 800 or so others to pray for peace, sending love and light into the world as we gathered with gratitude and one-ness of heart. The cantor referred to the year ahead as "365 days of grace."
What a beautiful reminder of the grace of each day. It has been a very full year, filled with grace and kindness, with a great deal of disorientation and unrest. And when I didn't think I could bear another day of heartache, my God drew near with tenderness and care. I had heard this first term of grad school described as disruptive, which was true, but I couldn't have anticipated what a privilege it would be to be a part of such a unique learning community.
One of the areas that I spent a lot of time reading, writing, and learning about these past few months is the profound space of stillness and darkness before the dawn of light and life. What can we learn from the shadowy places? We spend most of our time trying to distill darkness with light, filling our homes and lives with as much light as we can, even if it is artificial. But what of a spirituality from the nighttime? Our lives are dotted with shadow and grievous light-less-ness. What if we were to live into the shadows, in order to see a far greater light? I've started reading Barbara Brown Taylor's Learning to Walk in the Dark, a beautiful book on this very thing. She quotes Chet Raymo's The Soul of the Night at the beginning of the book, who posits that it is in the wild silence and dark that we testify to the voices crying in the wilderness. To practice a spirituality only from a dazzling light, is to dismiss that cry, to fail to hear the rattling reed.
There is a tendency for us to flee from the wild
silence and the wild dark, to pack up our gods
and hunker down behind city walls, to turn
the gods into idols, to kowtow before them and
approach their precincts only in the official robes
of office. And when we are in the temples, then
who will hear the voice crying in the wilderness?
Who will hear the reed shaken by the wind?
As we embark on 2015, I am already wondering about all it will hold. Someone recently wrote to me, imagining a 2015 full of hope and possibility. I think the shadowy night of the soul holds great hope and possibility, if only we have the eyes to see.
I've written previously of these past months feeling like a wilderness, which still feels like the truest way to name this beastly task. What gives me pause is that the wilderness is not without refreshment, it is not without promise. These words from the prophet Isaiah have surfaced repeatedly this past year, it seems befitting to name another 365 days of grace with this marker of hopefulness:
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.