by Major Danielle
I recently read Learning to Walk in the Dark
by Barbara Brown Taylor. I’ve always been fascinated by how
often God comes in the darkness … at night … in the mystery
and struggle. From the top of Sinai, Moses received a
foreboding invitation to meet with God and he entered the dark
cloud in order to find him. Perhaps that’s how and why Moses
came to not just do great things for God but to be his friend.
He was willing to go to the scary, obscure, mysterious, dark
places … willing to take the risk … willing to journey to a
place to encounter God, where his fears might not be relieved
after all. Maybe after encountering and struggling with the
real God we end up weaker instead of stronger, like Jacob;
broken instead of solid, like Peter; or dependant on his
grace, like Paul. An uncontrollable God—that’s what he offers
when he offers us himself.
We seem to have this love affair with all
things easy and comfortable. We want our faith to be like
that, too. We want a teddy bear for a God (and by “we” I mean
“me”), who gives us the desire of our hearts—and by that we
often mean whatever we want or think we need. We resist
wrestling with a God who will realign us to a posture of
dependence, weakness and surrender. We are afraid of that kind
of faith—we want easy answers for a shallow faith, just enough
to make us feel better for the immediate future but not enough
to change our lives.
At my small group, we’ve been watching a
video series on the 12 steps of recovery, made popular by
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Step Six (“We are entirely ready to
have God remove all these defects of character”) is about
encountering God in the dark. It has been fascinating to study
this step while reading Taylor’s book. It’s about meeting God,
not in the darkness outside you, but in the most terrifying
kind of darkness—inside you. It’s about accepting God’s
invitation to climb the mountain covered in a cloud. That
cloud, with its foreboding sense of danger, may have kept you
away for a long time. But on this day, you summon the courage
to climb. Admitting that you are willing to risk everything,
you encounter the God you can never really understand, but the
God who completely understands you.
And you meet him there. In the muck and the
mire of your own human condition. No hiding. No lying. No
pretending. No controlling. Just you and God. And what you
find is much like what Moses, Jacob, Paul, Peter and someone
near you in an AA group found. God—uncontrollable,
indescribable even, but full of mercy, compassion and love.
Exuding forgiveness, grace and a way out. Not ignoring your
condition—simply willing to change it.
For some of us, that will mean strengthening
us from the inside out. For others it will mean weakening us
from the outside in. Whatever it takes to change our posture
from defiance and self-reliance, to dependency, humility and
honesty. It will mean a clean slate, a new day, a different
you. It is exactly what the angels said when they told the
shepherds Jesus had come into the world in the middle of the
night, and it’s what the prophets spoke about when they called
him the “bright and morning star,” which is the star that
shines at the darkest hour of the night to usher in the dawn.
I don’t know about you, but to encounter
this kind of God, I’m willing to learn to walk in the dark.