Only in darkness do we appreciate light

I grew up in Saskatchewan where the clock never jumps forward or backward.

Dayna Vreeken

IN GOOD FAITH

I grew up in Saskatchewan where the clock never jumps forward or backward. Days never seem longer or shorter because they get darker or lighter. You never lose or gain sleep. And though I’ve lived in Alberta and B.C. for many years now, there’s still something jarring about daylight savings time to me, especially the one we just had.

Though it’s nice to have the sun tickle your face in the morning as you wake, there is something jarring about the way the darkness suddenly presses in around you earlier and earlier. The way changing your clocks backwards makes you recognize the darkness more than you would care.

There are times in life when darkness presses in, when you recognize it more than you care to. Not just physical darkness, but brokenness and suffering. It has a way of trying to suffocate you, of closing in, of blanketing you.

These past few weeks have been one of those such times. I’ve seen and experienced more darkness, more brokenness, more suffering, in the lives of many people around me than I care to admit. Which makes me reflect on my own periods of darkness, brokenness and suffering more than I desire. If you look for darkness, brokenness, and suffering, you will find it—glimpses and shadows of it are everywhere. If you don’t look for it, sometimes, the shadows still find you, either from within your own heart or through others.

Darkness, suffering and brokenness have a way of journeying with us through life. Once we’ve experienced it, we can pack it away neatly for a while, put it in filing cabinets, mostly master the surges of pain and negative responses of fear or anger we have to particular situations, but it never really truly leaves. As my friend says, “Brokenness is like having Celiac disease or diabetes—it’s always there, it’s just to what degree are you affected or debilitated by it.” The amount of darkness, the way it affects us, varies, like the patterns of the sun.

We are about to enter the Christmas season, malls bustling, bright red Santas and Reindeer noses. Presents stacked under trees. Lights, baking, and music. A season of laughter, fun, and excitement.

But in the church, we have a four-week season called Advent. It is a season, in the northern hemisphere that extends over some of the darkest days of winter. It is a season, where in the midst of shortened days, of darkness, we light candles, sing some mournful songs, and enter a period of waiting. In many ways, Advent is an acting out, depicting, remembering those who waited for freedom from bondage from their enemies, who suffered under the hands of their oppressors, who had darkness pressing in around them. Advent is a season of waiting for light. Of waiting for hope to be actualized. It is a season, we in the church embrace darkness, suffering, and brokenness.

I am glad for Advent. Glad for the season of darkness, waiting, suffering and brokenness.

Glad there is a time where communities say, “Yes. We do experience darkness. Life is not always like it is on the movies.” Glad there’s a season we do not run from darkness, to mourn, lament, and wail together and the revelation we learn through darkness. Glad for a season which teaches us what light is, what flourishing of life is, what hope is—for it is only in knowing darkness and brokenness we understand what light is.

A season which recognizes we have a God who came into the darkness, to walk with us in it, to suffer with us and then eventually to point us to the hope of darkness being forever defeated, light infiltrating all areas forever and ever. Bringing the ending of brokenness and waiting. Yet, while we wait I am glad for a season which allows us to sit in darkness, yet not without hope.

Dayna Vreeken is a pastor at Woody Nook Christian Reformed Church.