This guest post was written by Adam Couchman
December 21st, in the northern hemisphere, is the Winter Solstice – the ‘shortest’ day of the year. Except it’s not the shortest day really. It’s still 24 hours long, I’ll still sleep for the same amount of time. I won’t be losing time. But we call it the shortest day because it is the day when the sun is risen for the least amount of time. Here along latitude 51 we will get, give or take, just shy of 8 hours of daylight on Wednesday. That means 16 hours of darkness.
It’s the dark hours that got me thinking this week. Darkness has always been a strange place to me. It’s been a place of comfort and fear, a place of loneliness and company, boredom and creativity. Things that go ‘bump’ in the night hold a certain appeal to me. I’m not necessarily talking ghosts and goblins, although they come into it, but the parts of our own minds that race in the dark hours. The parts of our conscience that drink deep of the blackness and spins the ether to create stories of intrigue and mystery. Is it any wonder that some of the world’s darkest and most fanciful tales emerge out of the black Scandinavian winters?
I find it easier to look inward on myself in darkness, I find my mind opens to other possibilities when the lights go down. I can better order my rambling thoughts of the light hours into a deeper understanding, under the shadow of the moon.
But darkness has a negative connotation in my culture. Particularly that of the Christian faith. We are led to believe that the dark is where the bad stuff hides. We must constantly be shining bright lights into all the dark places of the world and of ourselves. Now, largely I agree; when darkness is used to describe a place of actual evil, then yes. I do believe that God’s ‘light’ is a real thing, but I’m not arrogant enough to just go throwing it around…at least I hope not.
Darkness is, after all, the absence of light. But equally, light is the absence of darkness. There is this perfect, beautiful marriage between the two. We can have no understanding of light without first experiencing the darkness, and vice versa. We use darkness to grow and mature. Darkness is the only base line we have to measure light. And if we extrapolate that idea we can arrive at the result of good being only ever measured by the depth of bad. Few things in this world can be solely experienced as good without having first been experienced as bad…but we’ll come to that later.
When God caused the universe to come into being there was at first, only darkness. Then light was caused to become and the light and dark where separated. The light became day and the dark, night. If darkness was so bad then surely God would have just made light? We need the night. We need to rest, we need to collate the information gleamed during our waking hours and make sense. Since the dawn of time when darkness descends mankind has looked up to the heavens and sought meaning. The darkness gives us our meanings, it balances the light.
If we lose a loved one, or we lose a job, or any number of things; there is a saying that we use: ‘we’re in a dark place’. Granted they are often low points, but it is only after the low, dark points does the light seem effective. It is only after bad situations that we can see the good – we need a marker.
Now, I said there are few things that can be solely experienced as good without having first been experienced as bad; that require no marker. But to be honest, there’s only one I can think of…
Some people do go through the hell of experiencing bad, evil and horrendous ‘love’. But that isn’t real love and we know it. I know what human love is. I love my wife and kids, I love my parents and siblings, I love my friends and others. But I’ve never experienced ‘bad love’, so what’s my marker?
Love requires no rules, love isn’t subservient to anyone, love is free and love is boundless. Love is present in light and darkness, in the hearts of evildoers and the good. Love can set us free!
What love is this? It is the love of humanity, the love in the fabric of the universe…the Love of the One who is.
Now tell me there is no love in darkness. Truly… love is eternal.
Adam lives in Southern England with his wife and 2 kids. He is a landscape gardener by day and amateur theologian by night. He is an avid reader, cyclist and walker. Very occasional speaker, preacher and community theatre actor. And he is on a quest to seek wisdom wherever it is found.