Last December, I was having coffee with a couple of students and I asked them what they thought we should focus on during our Lighthouse series in the spring semester.
I’ll often ask questions like this when I have decisions to make. I want to be sure that we’re talking about things that are important to our students, and I also quietly hope that a brilliant student does the hard work of coming up with all of the ideas.
One of the two students, Stephanie, raises her hand like we’re in a classroom and then blurts out as if she couldn’t wait to be called on, “Light and Dark—that’s your series.” I looked to the other student for help, thinking, “Save me. Her idea sucks!” And she responded to my non-verbal plea, “Yeah, she’s right.”
I love moments like this, where I am very clearly the learner. Both students told stories about their own experiences in physical, emotional, and spiritual light and dark times. I began to hear echoes of Genesis, Psalms, Job, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and John.
I started reading up, and found a lot of inspiration in Barbara Brown Taylor’s beautiful book, “Learning to Walk in the Dark”, which highlighted this pervasive theme of light and dark in scripture that I had never paid attention to.
I learned that in most of scripture, “darkness” doesn’t carry the implications of evil that it does in our language today. Darkness was a normal part of life, an inevitable conclusion to every day that couldn’t be escaped with screens and lights. Sure, darkness brought with it an element of fear, but not of what was evil, but of what was unknown and invisible to us.
In the first few pages of Genesis, darkness is given a calling: to provide boundaries to light, and establish a rhythm to life. The sea establishes the land, the sky establishes the earth, and darkness establishes light. It’s all a part of God’s good creation.
I and the students of Lighthouse have been refreshed time and again this semester by that realization.
Pain, depression, disappointment, sadness, anger, fear—these are dark experiences, of course. But they aren’t evil, they mark times of unknowing. They are another part of God’s good creation. Darkness is an inescapable part of the rhythm of life—another place that we seek and find God working.
When we dream about Lighthouse, we dream about students who seek God in everything, learning to see all through Christ, and Christ in all.
Every night, darkness becomes both a place of rest and a place of vulnerability. When we think about darkness, a feeling of vulnerability comes naturally, but it is only in an ever-deepening faith that we can learn to find rest in that darkness as well.
My hope and prayer is that this semester we’ve conquered some fears of the unknown and found rest in it, knowing that God is present in it.