Recently my daughter was away at a nearby camp with the rest of her fellow middle school band students, for an intensive few days of BAND. They played a lot, learned a lot, and improved a lot in that three-day period, and based on the stories we heard in the car on the way home, they also had fun a lot! One of the fun things that they did that Sarah was especially eager to tell her two younger brothers about was the campfire they had on the last night…and the ghost stories that were told in the presence of those magical flickering flames that offered warmth and safety in the midst of the darkness of the night around them. As she retold those stories on the way home, with the toasty, bright rays of the afternoon sun shining in the windows of our car, they really didn’t seem too spooky.
“That’s not that scary,” one of her brothers scoffed, upon hearing the conclusion of the first one. “Yeah, I know,” said Sarah, “but listen to this one…” and she proceeded to regale them with another one. “That’s creepy!” her youngest brother said when she finished, with a half-smile on his face and a sort-of-laugh in his voice, wanting to communicate, I could tell, those feelings of “That really is kind of creepy, but at 8 I’m old enough to not really be scared…or at least not let on that I’m scared!…” Even as an adult I can relate to those feelings!! That’s why I still don’t like ghost stories and scary movies!…. Eventually the last ghost story was shared, the conversation moved on to how awful the camp lunch had been that day, and the rest of the trip home passed by uneventfully, with the ghost-story-creepy-ness (or lack thereof!), thankfully, behind us.
Until bedtime that night. !!
“I can’t get those stories out of my head!” said my youngest child.
“I’m not going to be able to go to sleep!” said my middle child.
“Why is everything so creepy when it’s dark??” said even my ever-maturing, rational-minded, preteen oldest child.
Those tales that had been told and dismissively tucked away in the light of day bubbled up to the surface in the encroaching darkness. Those haunting stories that seemed harmless enough in the wide-awake hours of a sunny afternoon suddenly seemed scary as the time for sleeping drew near. When it’s dark, and it’s quiet, and it’s time to go to sleep, and you’re all alone in your bed, whether you’re eight or ten or twelve (or even forty-five!), those daytime thoughts of “That’s not that scary!” can quickly become “That really is creepy!! And I can’t stop thinking about it!”
Why is everything so creepy when it’s dark? Why is it so much easier for our imaginations to run amok–and not in cheerful, happy ways but in creepy, frightening, unsettling ways–in the absence of light? Why do things seem so much scarier when we–kids and adults alike–can’t see?
I suspect it’s because of just that–we can’t see! When we can’t see, we don’t know what’s “out there.” And when we don’t know what’s “out there,” we don’t know what to prepare for. And when we don’t know what to prepare for, we feel out of control. And when we feel out of control, we get scared.
Because we like to be in control. We like to be prepared. We like to know what lies ahead, make our plans accordingly, make our contingency plans in case our first plan doesn’t go according to plan, and carry out said plans.
We like to see what’s out there, and when the light is replaced with darkness, removing–or at least greatly reducing–our ability to see, everything can feel a little creepy…..
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” So says the Gospel of John, in the fifth verse of the first chapter.
If we can trust in the Light of God, we don’t need to fear the darkness….
If we can trust in the Light of God, we don’t need to see with our own eyes….
If we can trust in the Light that is God, we don’t have to be in control, we don’t have to know what lies ahead, we don’t need to put all of our faith in our ability to plan for any and all situations….
…because we will know that that Light has overcome all darkness.
Our trust in God will not take away the darkness–whether that darkness is the scary darkness that comes when you’re all alone in your bed at night and ghost stories are filling your head, or the unsettling darkness of a mysterious illness that has gone on for months with no end in sight, or the terrifying darkness of suddenly and unexpectedly having to face life alone, without the partner you’d planned to share your remaining years with.
Our trust in the Light that is God will not remove darkness from our lives–whether the darkness of loneliness or job loss or mental illness or financial struggles or grief or abuse…but we will be able to survive the darkness. We will be able to not see and be okay. We will be able to not know everything that lies ahead and yet not be afraid. We will see and feel and touch, and perhaps even name, the darkness that surrounds us…and know deep within ourselves that our God is bigger and deeper and wider and stronger than any scary, creepy, even terrifying thing that may come our way….
Things do seem creepy when it’s dark! Whether you’re eight, ten, twelve, forty-five, or even (I imagine!) ninety-five! But “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5). That Light is there for us, if we can find it. And if we can find it, we can trust it. And if we can trust in that Light, we can survive the darkness. Thanks be to God!
Bring on the darkness.