I leaned against my son, leaned into his frame for acknowledgment of pain. I apologized for failing. Failing to provide, failing for the example of an adult getting up and heading to work each day. Failing to insure his safety in reliance upon my successes. It was time to be honest.
Have you had a dark night of your soul? I have. Diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune deficiency in 2014, I learned that my particular immunodeficiency restricts me from sick people, crowds, shaking hands, and hugging. Did I mention that I'm a healthcare Chaplain?
Everything I'd planned for, my ministry, my career, my financial security—all gone on an ordinary day. Everything that I loved, everyone that I had the honor of spending time with in the hospital, all of the rich devotional experiences as a front-line “Jesus in flesh” were finished. Just like that. I cried. I yelled, “I want my life back!” O night divine?
The fifteenth-century Christian writer John of the Cross describes this dark night as an invasion of God's astringent grace, that opens us to new realms of spiritual experience. I only felt the astringent.
The problem of pain? Emotional honesty. Henri Nouwen (Turn My Mourning Into Dancing: Finding Hope in Hard Times) notes: “No one can truly say with certainty where he or she will be in ten or twenty years from now. You do not know if you will be free or in captivity, if you will be honored or despised, if you will have many friends or few, if you will be liked or rejected. But when you hold lightly these dreams and fears, you can be open to receive every day as a new day and to live your life as a unique expression of God’s love for humankind.”
How do we accept these dark nights of our soul? Where is the light to guide us? “The light of hope now the waking world rejoices / for brightly breaking, there dawns a glorious morn.” There is something else, something beyond says David Miller, “And through a dark night of the soul, I came to realize that salvation happens through a mysterious, indefinable, relational interaction with Jesus in which we become one with Him.”
“Shine, Star of Bethlehem, Bright Star of Bethlehem, of the night the diadem, Prince of all the stars of heaven. It shines again! With dazzling ray, upon the brow of doubting day . . .” Into existence God called a star and shepherds, Magi, townspeople, foreigners, streamed to God's self-revelation.
“God, all at once you turned on a floodlight for me! You are the revelation-light in my darkness, and in your brightness I can see the path ahead.” Ps 18:28 (The Passion Translation). I looked up and saw a star, and to me it gave great light.
Christie Whited-Shine, a member of La Sierra University Church, attends via live-streaming with occasional live appearances. She's committed to service whenever possible.