I said to my soul, be still, and let the darkness come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God.
~ T. S. Eliot
Perhaps because we have so many images of God that are filled with light—heavenly light, the light of goodness and truth, the experience of being enlightened—finding God in the midst of darkness runs contrary to what we expect. Further, we generally dislike darkness or regard it with apprehension as a situation in which something scary or bad is apt to occur. Dark conjures up negative associations, brings a mystery that calls for us to solve. In the light, we maintain control; in the dark, someone or something else has control.
So to follow Eliot’s guide again and willingly allow darkness to take us over is not a choice we are likely to make. Resisting darkness, rather than embracing it, makes more sense. Even though we have instances in which darkness is positive and produces growth, such as the darkness in which seeds germinate or the darkness of the womb in which a child takes shape, still moving into darkness does not come easily.
While the Advent season promises that light is coming, it nonetheless presents us with a time of darkness that we are invited to not just endure, but to accept as meaningful. Darkness allows us to rest, to be still, to listen more carefully than usual because our visual senses are shut down. There is no predicting what will happen in darkness, so entering darkness requires courage.
Yet Eliot claims the darkness is of God. This Advent, perhaps we might come to know God as God is in darkness, a different experience than the God who comes in light. But God, nonetheless.