I preached Sunday from John's gospel chapter three, the passage in which Jesus speaks of light and darkness. He says, "And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God."
In this passage there is a distinction made between light and darkness and our human response. Light, God's presence, is all around us, Jesus says, and we can choose whether to vigorously seek the light or furtively crouch in the darkness. Darkness is a persuasive seductress ... we are lured into the shadows to hide from ourselves or others ... we are beckoned into the murkiness to escape reality or accountability. The alluring character of darkness is that we (think) we can escape encounters with others and live a solitary existence immersed in what we think to be solitude.
But eventually the darkened existence reveals its true nature. It becomes a lonely, anxiety-ridden experience with no direction. Jesus connects "evil doers" with "darkness," and the intent of his message is clear: seek the light in the midst of darkness. Failure ... spiritual, emotional, physical, or otherwise ... comes not from encountering the darkness, but in choosing to dwell in it and neglecting to seek light.
I have found great strength in reading of spiritual giants of ages gone by (Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, for example) who remind us that shadow moments in our lives are the greatest opportunity for spiritual growth. It is moments of crisis and disillusionment that we learn new skills for life. With each crisis we are strengthened and more deeply rooted in our spiritual journey. Deepend, that is, if we choose to seek light in the midst of darkness.
We each need to choose our direction ... to careen deeper and deeper into the murky depths or, in the midst of the shadows, to assertively press forward, discovering the Light in new and deeper ways. Great is the power of darkness, but greater still is the Light of God.