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The Value of Endarkenment

For the last couple of week's we've been inspired by the light, the sun and the season of spring. However, whilst we celebrate the importance of enlightenment, the night is as important as the day and there is an important role for darkness to play in our lives that we'll be exploring today.

Last week we were reminded that in Genesis the day begins with the darkness of the evening and continues into our daytime.

Darkness tends to represent different things to different people. What does darkness represent for you?

Chris reflects on how darkness has become something that is feared, unsafe and criticised by society and religion. Many were taught that "Men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil." The Christian story calls Satan, the enemy of mankind, The Prince of Darkness.

Chris recalls a prayer she was taught to say each day at Infant School:

"Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, oh Lord, and by thy great mercy, defend us from the perils and dangers of this night, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

This sets one up for an unhealthy relationship with darkness and Chris shares how she became a "policeman on permanent night-shift, watching religiously for wherever darkness showed up. You could say I suffered from a bad case of Solar Affective Disorder! We were so preoccupied with keeping the lights on that we were never given the skills for operating in the dark."

Whatever darkness you are going through at the moment, you need to experience a light that has nothing to do with your eyes. In the dark, your eyes are useless and often it's your determination to keep seeing with your eyes that causes the struggle to go on.

For many of us, the answer for engaging with darkness has been to simply turn on the lights, but today we're going to explore how we can use faith to explore the darkness rather than using faith to try and eliminate darkness.

Resurrection and birth both happen in the dark and the book of Isaiah talks about how there are treasures to be found in the dark. Let's find out what those treasures are!

The light can be essential in our process of growth, but this documentary clip demonstrates how following any light that shines isn't always a good idea.

It's important to consider what darkness represents for each of us, because if it remains unconscious, we'll spend time chasing after a light to eliminate our own personal darkness when real growth would come from engaging with our darkness.

Jenny shares how our physical bodies need darkness as much as light and the artificial light of our modern technology can keep us from the benefits of the night.

The sight of our eyes is only one of our senses and there is a good reason that, in his letter to the Corinthian people, Paul writes...

"We live by faith and not by sight."

There are restaurants where diners are invited to eat in the dark, and many find that turning off one sense can change the experience of the other senses. When we go through times of darkness we can't walk by sight anymore and so have an opportunity to engage our other senses and grow in new ways.

“It makes me wonder how seeing has made me blind, by giving me cheap confidence that one quick glance at things can tell me what they are, by distracting me from learning how the light inside me works, by fooling me into thinking I have a clear view of how things really are, of where the road leads, of who can see rightly and who cannot. I am not asking to become blind, but I have become a believer. There is a light that shines in the darkness, which is only visible there.” Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

When you next walk through some darkness and are tempted to escape it by switching on the artificial light of a feel-good, quick-fix or conforming to how you believe things should be, try sitting with that darkness and seeing what it shows you about yourself and your life.

Seasons have been a common theme at Q over the past month, and growing up on a farm, Danny comments how he's seen the process of sowing seeds and watching them grow through spring and summer and how the cycle then repeats as the multiplied seeds are harvested in autumn, to then be put them back in the ground ready to die and resurrect the next spring.

There is a clear connection between growth and seasons.

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” Jesus

So, how do you want to grow?

What is required for that process of growth to happen and are you willing to let go of somethings that feel familiar, and be planted in the darkness of the unknown?

The challenge that Jesus presents is that if we want to grow then, just like a seed being planted, we have to let go of the way we are living, thinking, acting and being now and embrace a new way of living, thinking, acting and being...because, as the saying goes...

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

When a seed is planted in the ground it finds itself in darkness.

Often our culture presents darkness as something to be feared:

Star Wars talks about The Dark Side of the force;

In the Harry Potter stories, Harry's enemy is known as The Dark Lord.

So what does that mean in a practical sense for us to not fear the darkness but to use it to grow?

Darkness for us might be going through a difficult season...

Darkness might be leaving behind familiar thoughts and beliefs...

Darkness might be changing comfortable habits and trying something new and unfamiliar...

Danny put this theory into practise by stepping out from behind his guitar/keyboard to sing a song all about navigating the seasons of darkness we find ourselves in.

“Welcome to my world, where all you have is trust, you never know when you reach out if you’ll be met with love, but in the darkest night you can start to see the light.”

“To find a new horizon, we’ve got to leave the shore, let’s leave the past behind us, there’s a new world to explore, And there’s a great adventure beyond our last excuse, when everything’s been given, we’ve got nothing left to lose.”

In this no-holds-barred confession, Jenny reveals the depths of darkness to which she plunged in her teenage rebellion in a rural village in the Peak District! Reflecting on this she shares how the quickest way of finding our way home can sometimes take us through the darkness.

St John of the Cross wrote a book called The Dark Night of the Soul and in his native Spanish, his word for God is "Nada" - Nothing. There are many mysteries that we may be in the dark about, but we encourage you to sit in the reality of that darkness and take courage, because this is not the end of your story.

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