The Longest Night
Many years ago, not long into my first year of seminary, I stepped into a deep pit of despair.
I was surrounded, suffocating really, within and without, by a thick cloud of darkness.
I felt isolated, alone, abandoned even.
I was grieving, both for all that had been that I had lost,
and for all I had expected and hoped to be that never developed.
I was overwhelmed, filled with anxiety and exhaustion,
and I reacted to the people around me with agitation, irritation, and even anger.
Depression was the clinical name given to my official mental health diagnosis.
Whatever anyone wanted to call it, all I knew is that I felt terribly lost and hopeless. It didn’t seem like there was any possible way out of the darkness, like I was stuck in the muck and mire of the deep, dark, dank pit . . . forever!
In the northern hemisphere, we are entering a time of darkness, as the natural rhythm and cycle of the seasons unfolds. The leaves are completing their journey back to the earth, the temperatures are falling, and the days are shortening, as we pick up steam towards the climax- the winter solstice on December 21 – the longest night.
Just like the leaves, we are invited to return to where we came from, to begin anew, to reset, to die and be reborn, again and again. We are invited into the darkness, into the beginning, into the earth, and into the dark womb from which we were born.
For it is in the darkest darkness that the Light shines brightest!
(Isn’t it interesting that we hear stories of near death experiences that include moving through some sort of tunnel-like pathway towards a bright light, which exactly mirrors our birthing process from the dark womb into the light of this human experience?!)
Long, long ago there were many peoples and traditions that celebrated the natural rhythms and cycles of life. They were, and are, earth-honoring traditions, meant to connect and reconnect us to the earth, the natural elements, the seasons, the plant and animal worlds, the sun and stars and moon and heavens, to one another and our ancestors, and to the deepest parts of our own hearts, the Light and Love of our true nature, often hidden deep within the darkness of our inner worlds.
Then, when the early church formed and became the official religion of the empire, these earth-honoring traditions were vilified, demonized, and called (in an intentionally derogatory way) pagan. Of course, anything ‘pagan’ was, and is, heretical, bad, and evil; while anything ‘Christian’ is good.
Thankfully, today, we know better. We know this isn’t true. And more and more people are remembering and returning to our roots, reawakening and rebirthing many of these ancient earth-honoring traditions!
In the church, we are also entering a time of darkness, as the natural rhythm and cycle of the church seasons unfolds.
Advent is the name we give to this time. We practice waiting and watching and preparing as we steam towards the climax on December 25 – Christmas – the birth of Light in the midst of great darkness!
Jesus, we call this great Light. And we place on him all of our hopes and expectations to be the light in the midst of our darkness.
And yet, here we are, still, thousands of years later,
and not only are we still waiting for the Light in the midst of our darkness,
the darkness seems to be growing and strengthening and spreading.
Perhaps there’s something we’re missing?? Perhaps there’s another way??
Jesus was/is also known as ‘the Christed one.’ We often say Jesus Christ, or Christ Jesus, but the more complete translation is Jesus, the Christed One.
This isn’t to imply that Jesus is the only Christed One. Rather, we see that following the Way of Love that Jesus followed leads each of us to be Christed Ones as well!
Simply put, a Christed One is one who has turned inward, entered the darkest darkness, and dwelt deeply there, over and over and over and over again.
Dwelling in the depths of darkness deep within our own hearts and beings is not for the faint of heart. It is hard work, and liberating work as well! We come face to face with unpleasantness of all kinds – a buffet of hurts and disappointments and fears and scars.
When we are able to be fully present with what is, with no judgment, no pushing away, no holding on to, simply allowing what is to be, breathing in and out Love, little by little the heavy cloud of darkness begins to soften and lift, much like how the sun warms the morning and melts the dense fog away.
And much like the sun becoming clearer and clearer and brighter and brighter, the Light we’ve been searching for in the midst of our darkness becomes brighter and brighter and clearer and clearer!
And to our surprise, we find that this Light we’ve been longing and searching for, to dispel our darkness and fill us with peace and joy and Love, is within us!
This Light is within our own hearts! It’s been there all along!
It always has been, is, and will always be!
It’s never left us and we’ve never left it!
It’s available any time- every time- we boldly and courageously enter the darkness within, dwell deeply in Loving presence (without judgments of any kind), allow what is to simply be, and return to the Light that has always been within us, always beckoning us, always showing us the Way, always ready to welcome us home!
This is the invitation that my experience of depression offered me.
This is the invitation the earth-honoring traditions offer us.
This is the invitation the rhythms and cycles of the seasons offer us.
This is the invitation the falling leaves and the longest night offer us.
This is the invitation the Advent season offers us.
This is the invitation Jesus, the Christed One, offers us:
‘Let us dwell together, within our own hearts and beings, in our deepest darknesses.
Let us practice Loving presence in this place,
breathing in and out Love with whatever we find,
leaving all judgments at the door,
simply allowing what is present to be,
and meeting it with Love in this moment.
Let us find, and return, again and again,
to the Light and Love that has always been within us!
And let us nurture and grow this Light,
climaxing with new birth at the winter solstice and Christmas Day!’
What gifts of Love are your heart asking you to give birth to, out of your deepest darkness, from the Light that is, and always has been, within you???
So grateful to be sharing this journey with each of you, and so excited to witness and support the growth and birth of more and more Light and Love from within each of you!!!
Love, Love, Love,