"I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light."
—Barbara Brown Taylor
"But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah;
and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."
Walking the wilderness way of Lent, we've had time to think about the paths we've traveled, the journeys which have chosen us, and the baggage that we carry around with us. This week—at the halfway point of our pilgrimage—we join the reluctant prophet, Jonah, running away from things that are too difficult to do or believe.
He's in the belly of a big fish, swallowed up whole, feeling far from God. Jonah is not just an Israelite called to perform a difficult task by God. He is human. He is me. He is you... He is everyone who has wanted to run as far as they could go when life seems too overwhelming, when the way that God is calling us to seems too difficult, when the way ahead appears hopeless.
We have all spent time in the depths, praying for deliverance and second chances. While we aren’t told what Jonah did during those three days in the belly of the fish, I have to think that he took some time to examine his thoughts and the actions that led him down into the depths. And perhaps in the darkness he was forced to confront his doubts, his mistakes, and even his God.
We are called to do the very same thing during Lent: to stop running, to slow down, to examine the depths of who we are. The journey asks us to think, to fear, to pray, to dream, to explore, and even to hurt. It's one thing to spend time in the darkness, like Jonah, doing these things. But it's quite another to realize who is holding you while you do.
We run, we are swallowed up, and we are spit out. And God is in each of those things. God is in the running, giving us the choice and the freedom to flee—to run as far and as fast as our legs can take us. And when the winds blow and the storms come, God can swallow us whole, holding us in the dark, like a mother does with a growing child in her belly.
This season is an invitation to enter the depths of who we are. To recognize where we are on our path. To stop running and find a voice to cry out. The journey will grow darker still as we make our way to the cross and the tomb. But that is not where our story ends. Because the life-giving, life-saving, life-renewing grace of God is wider and deeper and longer than anything we can imagine.
So if the road seems long, if you find yourself crying from the depths: take heart. Easter dawn is on the horizon. And we, too, shall rise.
PRAYER FOR THE JOURNEY
Gracious God, the journey of Lent is long and winding. Taking time to look closely at ourselves is hard work. Being honest and open about who we are is not always easy. But in the midst of our doubts and despair, our fears and failures, you are there.
When all we can see are dead ends, open up pathways of hope. When we sit in deep darkness, offer us new hearts and renewed spirits.
As we lift up the desperate prayers of our hearts, create in us a place for your peace to dwell. And when we feel like we are in over our heads, give us eyes to see the new creations of your grace that we already are.
Through Christ our Way, so let it be.
“...new life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.”
—Barbara Brown Taylor
"Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
...Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”
Poetry by Rev. Todd Pick
Your love is determined, defies expectation
Forgives where we cannot
Follows where we dare not
Flows beyond binaries, boundaries,
And categories so carefully constructed
Extends to embrace those we’re sure it cannot
Attempting to flee from your presence
Preferring to dictate, delimit your grace
We often end up in the depths
Offering prayers in the dark
In the midst of our steadfast arrogance
Before we are worthy of second chances
Before our neighbor is worthy (in our humble opinion)