Photo Credit: Katherine Seibert
I wandered out into the darkness the other night, wrapped in a thick fog. I could see about three car lengths in front of me on the asphalt, and then a wall of white, reflecting my headlights back at me. The brightness designed to keep me safe actually increased my blindness. And I am afraid of the danger that lies in the darkness, because I am afraid of not being able to see. Having seen just a little bit of light, I want there to be no more darkness.
After about an hour, the fog lifted. The sky was perfectly clear and filled with stars, and my fear dissipated too. As I thanked God for the stars and our safety, I felt the irony of my relief. The people who wander in darkness, says Matthew, have seen a great light. The people who have seen the light do not escape the darkness. I am still wandering in the dark, even if I’m holding a candle.
This is the wisdom and gift of Advent, a season for practicing what it means to wander, trusting in the light in the midst of the darkness. So much of my life is spent waiting and wandering. I am tempted to believe that this waiting and wandering is wasted time, but it is not. This waiting and wandering is making up my life. What happens here is significant, even sacred.
Day after day, when I am lonely or scared or tired, I whisper for God. I reach out to touch someone else who is also struggling. I do a load of laundry or six. The music I put on for background noise saves my sanity and becomes my prayer. I practice being patient when I would rather throw a fit. I make space in my heart to hear about a fight on the playground. Unsure of where all this life and chaos is going, I wander a little deeper into the darkness.
Right in the middle of one of my favourite passages, John writes that “The light shone in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5). The darkness has pulled me into depression, and some days I find myself pulled back into it, drowning in fear and heartache. This side of heaven, the darkness does not go away. I ache for it to retreat entirely, but I am learning to cling to whatever light God provides. Somehow, it ends up being enough.
As I drove, my girls were buckled into the backseat, asking questions and feeling my fear. I focused on the lines painted onto the highway. My heart kept watch for the lights of cars and any signs of movement that might be animals. It was more dangerous to slow down and turn around than it was to keep moving forward in trust.
This fog and darkness are metaphors for my life. I want to see everything that will happen now. If only I could make meaning of the laundry and the waiting now, instead of at the end, I tell myself that would make the waiting and the wandering easier. But I suspect that if I saw everywhere the road was leading, I would never take the first step. It is getting on the road that makes me willing to keep driving when the fog shows up.
The darkness that night was a gift because it made it possible to see the light, however blinding. If I had been traveling just a few hours earlier, the daylight would have dissipated the light of the oncoming headlights.
My beauty of my life is not just the Christmas days and celebrations, not merely the accomplishments and victories. The waiting and the wandering are a greater part of our time, beautiful spaces for holding vigil and practicing trust. In the waiting, we try and fail, come up short, sink and struggle, sometimes for years and decades. Rather than rushing to the end of the story, the meaning that gives purpose, sometimes we have to practice sitting in the middle of the mess together, begging for light.
We have seen the light in the darkness and yet we wander still. It is too triumphant to say that we wandered, that now we know, that all is already well. We get glimpses of the light our hearts were made for, but for now, He is coming again so that we have enough light to see the next step. May we wander and wait for Him with hearts for light in the darkness.