Updated: 26 Apr 2014
From the moment God declared, “Let there be light,” the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic scriptures have anointed light as holy and condemned darkness as evil.
For this reason, most seekers of religious truth spend their time searching for the light, and avoiding the night. But not 62-year-old preacher Barbara Brown Taylor. In her new memoir Learning to Walk in the Dark, she challenges the theological belief that darkness is evil, scary, and bad. Over the last 4 years, the best-selling author has:
- explored and meditated in caves;
- tried to experience being blind;
- enjoyed the pleasures of night walking; and
- stared into her darkest emotions.
She believes that it is sometimes in the bleakest moments that God is nearest.
The preacher points out that darkness was often the scene for close encounters with divinity:
- God appeared to Abraham at night;
- the exodus from Egypt occurred under the cover of night;
- Moses met God in the darkness atop Mount Sinai;
- the apostle Paul’s conversion occurred after he was blinded; and
- Jesus was born beneath a star and resurrected in the darkness of a cave.
If we turn away from darkness on principle, doing everything we can to avoid it because there is simply no telling what it contains, isn’t there a chance we are running away from God?
Good question. By having a close encounter with the night, we are dealing quite simply with optical deprivation. By depriving ourselves of one of our most valuable senses, we enhance the power of those remaining.
So how about sound deprivation, putting on a pair of noise-canceling earphones? Or taste or food deprivation (religiously known as fasting)?
Perhaps the ultimate form of a search for God could be a sensory deprivation (isolation) tank. These tanks were first used in 1954 by John C. Lilly to test the effects of sensory deprivation. They are now being used for a variety of activities like meditating, reducing stress, and enhancing relaxation. But nowhere on Wikipedia do they list the tanks as being a conduit to God.
Since I love walking, I think I will stick to night walking. I need to move to relax. According to Elizabeth Dias writing for Time magazine (28 Apr 2014) you should:
Tread carefully and do not be overconfident. It is about the journey, not the finish. Pause: What do you smell? Hear? Taste?
And Taylor asks the question: “How do we develop the courage to walk in the dark if we are never asked to practice?”