I don’t have an easy spirituality and sometimes recovery can kick me in the teeth. But my darkness is one of my best teachers.
A friend of mine recently suggested that I read some of Barbara Brown Taylor’s work. I have purchased two of her books, Leaving Church and Learning to Walk in the Dark. I am currently reading the second book and loving it.
Before we get too far into this, I get that addiction and mental illness can take you deeply into the dark side of your life. Reading an article about learning from your darkness may feel like the last thing that you want to do. But there is growth awaiting you as you learn to walk in the dark.
Walking in the dark does not mean cooperating with hopelessness, despair or overwhelming habits or addictions. Instead, it means embracing what both your light and your darkness can teach you.
In her book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, Brown Taylor shares how her spiritual life has expanded as she has learned not only attend to her hopes and spiritual light, but also her shadows and to the lights that blaze in the night all around us.
I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need the darkness as much as I need the light.
I find this helpful for my spiritual life because I don’t have an easy spirituality. Faith seems to come to me in spurts and waves. Sometimes I have strong belief and consistent habits. Other times, my beliefs and my experience are not as energetic.
My spiritual life gives energy to my recovery. You may not share the same viewpoint or you may have issues with the Church. I get that you may have issues with the Church because I have my own issues. In fact, I have issues with the Church and with God. But where I find connection is that I believe that God is big enough for my issues.
One of the things that has helped me to understand my changing spiritual life is what Brown Taylor describes as “Lunar Spirituality…” or Spirituality for the darkness. It is not only your light that can inspire your recovery, but also your darkness can become an important teacher.
Darkness is not simply the darkness outside of you. You can walk under the brightest sunlight, yet feel profound darkness inside. Remember that not all darkness is evil… most of our darkness is not harmful at all. Darkness can include our moods and may feel like fear, sadness, grief, anxiety or gripping flashbacks. Our inner darkness can also feel like isolation, loneliness, or having lost touch with ourselves or with God.
Brown Taylor describes how our spiritual energy, or “Divine Light,” will wax or wane, depending on the season. The moon, she describes, is a better mirror for her soul than the sun. The sun looks the same every day, whereas the moon is both consistent and it also has a changing rhythm.
She invites you and I to consider a few questions that will inform and inspire how we include our darkness in our recovery:
- What would my life look like if I trusted the rhythm of our spiritual lives rather than opposing it?
- Do I have enough hope or faith to explore the darkness instead of using faith to bar all of my doors?
- How much more was in store for me if I could learn to walk in the dark?
You will learn more from your failures than from your successes, and often more from your darkness than from your light.
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Keep it Real
Photo by Erich Ferdinand