Last week I left us in a chrysalis– staying in our dark cell as we developed to maturity before emerging, fully formed as a colorful butterfly. I returned to the book I’ve been rereading, Sue Monk Kidd’s, When the Heart Waits. She has become my mentor during this Lenten walk. I draw heavily upon her words in this post– because she speaks deeply in a way that resonates.
Last Sunday night, I started reading Chapter 7, “Incubating the Darkness.” At that point in the book, Kidd was also in Holy Week and describes how she felt like she was going through a “spiritual night” a “stripping away” and “an emptying.” She had felt a restlessness for a while and couldn’t understand why.
“I felt that I had been dropped into an abyss of unknowing, into a stark confrontation with my own pain and wounds.”
She goes on to say, “At times I felt abandoned and afraid inside its roundness. At other times the darkness felt strangely nurturing, swollen with the mystery of becoming.” (p145)
I thought the way she said, swollen with the mystery of becoming, was quite beautiful.
All these images pair well with the journey that Christ took to the cross. For Christians, the days of Holy Week are spent reflecting on Christ’s steps of taking on our pain and wounds, binding them to the cross, and then the world going dark.
For Kidd, as for the rest of us, darkness can be terrifying. At the end of our day, when it’s dark and we face the hours of night’s stillness, she says we can be brought into “sharper contact with our pain.”
“At night shadows that I can’t see in daylight play on the wall. I see my wounds, my conflict, my incompleteness, and my longing in heightened outlines on the walls of my soul.” (p146) Like most of us, Kidd admits that she’d like to be rid of the darkness. Later she comes to the conclusion that the darkness is necessary:
“But I have the sense lurking inside that there’s a mystery unfolding in the darkness that can’t come any other way.
Could it be that this is a holy dark?
Everything incubates in darkness.”
Kidd eventually sees that in the darkness she is being called to a new way of being, a “new way of relating to God that’s beyond anything we’ve even imagined.” (p152) “God always invites us beyond where we are. Too many of us panic in the dark. We don’t understand that it’s a holy dark and the the idea is to surrender to it and journey through to the real light.”
During Holy Week, we remember that Christ surrendered to his calling to sacrifice his life and journeyed to the cross– because of the real light that would follow. Kidd describes her experience at sunset on the day before Easter, sitting at the service in her darkened church, pondering Christ in the tomb, waiting in darkness. Those thoughts began to blend with thoughts she’d had about the soul waiting in the womb for new birth; womb and tomb. Julian of Norwich, the Christian mystic and theologian from the thirteen hundreds, wrote that our wounds become the womb.
Reading those words, I pondered how my wounds are my womb. There are wounds that I’ve been dealing with that come quickly to mind. How are they the tomb that I’m to enter during Holy Week? It’s a lot to try and grasp onto and hold in the silence, in the darkness.
Kidd continues, “Transformation hinges on our ability to turn pain (the tomb) into a fertile place where life is birthed (the womb).”
I held onto her words, thinking about how God is working to transform me– slowly over time.
As the week progressed toward Good Friday, the tension building to that final crescendo, the moment where even Christ feels forsaken by his Father, I tried to just allow that space of uncertainty and mystery. Who am I to understand the plan of God for the whole of creation and for me?
After the world went dark on that crucifixion hill, silence until the third day.
When the work that’s done in the darkness is complete, the stone is rolled away from the tomb that now is seen as a place of transformation. Brilliant light shines forth.
We are beckoned to come forward into that life-giving light.
A scripture, that has helped sustain me over the past year, comes to mind:
“Forget the Former Things
Do not Dwell on the Past
See, I am doing a New Thing
Now it Springs Up: Do You Not Perceive It?
I Am making a Way in the Wilderness
Streams in the Wasteland.”
Isaiah 43: 18-19, NIV
I leave you with the hope that in the days ahead you’ll walk out of your dark tomb, you’ll fly away from your chrysalis of transformation, into the light that’s shining on you.