A Journey Toward Spiritual Surrender
Week 4: Afraid of the Dark
Contributed by Rev. Donna Godwin
Huffman UMC Associate Pastor
When I moved into my house, I noticed what I considered to be odd. The builder put flood lights on the back of the house on the right-hand side of the house, but the steps of the back porch are on the left-hand side of the house. I realize that the lights were placed in that location because it is easier to access, but it meant I was in almost complete darkness if I needed to take the stairs after sunset. And I could totally lose sight of my black dog in the dark. Walking in the dark can be a challenge, especially if you can’t see that the dog stopped in front of you. There are dangers in trying to maneuver in the dark. Darkness can be scary.
Scripture—John 12:20-36 (The Message)
There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: “Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?” Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus.
Jesus answered, “Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal. “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me. “Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’”
A voice came out of the sky: “I have glorified it, and I’ll glorify it again.” The listening crowd said, “Thunder!” Others said, “An angel spoke to him!” Jesus said, “The voice didn’t come for me but for you. At this moment the world is in crisis. Now Satan, the ruler of this world, will be thrown out. And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me.” He put it this way to show how he was going to be put to death.
Voices from the crowd answered, “We heard from God’s Law that the Messiah lasts forever. How can it be necessary, as you put it, that the Son of Man ‘be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”
Jesus said, “For a brief time still, the light is among you. Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn’t destroy you. If you walk in darkness, you don’t know where you’re going. As you have the light, believe in the light. Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You’ll be children of light.”
Being afraid of the dark is common and considered a normal stage of development in children. When we become adults, we may logically know that there is no reason to be scared of the dark. However, it is not uncommon for adults to also fear darkness. It’s not the darkness that is frightening. It is what is out there in the dark that we can’t see that scares us. We feel exposed because we can’t see any threats which lie in wait nearby.
This fear is valid. Early humans needed this fear to keep them alert to predators lurking in the darkness. Even now, when we probably are not going to have a carnivorous animal waiting to pounce on us, it is still wise to be cautious in the dark. Darkness still threatens us with hidden dangers. Often when we’ve been in the dark a while, our eyes will adjust, and we are able to see. Or we think we can see until we step on a Lego or run into the coffee table in our dark house. We need the light to safely guide us.
We have all been on a journey and, at some point, found ourselves in darkness. Sometimes we need to travel through darkness to get to the next stage of our journey. Think about tunnels that were built to help transportation through obstacles. Sometimes travel must take place during the cover of darkness for protection. I recall night maneuver training when I lived on an Air Force base.
In life’s journey, sometimes we need to experience darkness before we can find the light. The practice of The Daily Examen is one way to search for our own darkness to know what areas of our life need to see light. How can we learn and grow if we don’t honestly see our rough edges? In some journeys, we really have to go deep into the darkness. It is said that an addict often has to hit rock bottom – total darkness – before they can move forward – toward the light. The Prodigal Son in Luke 15 had to get to a low point before he was ready to go home. Or think about the grain of wheat Jesus talked about in John 12:24-25. It has to be buried in darkness before it can grow toward the light.
Perhaps we are able to adjust to the darkness for a while, but when we find the light, everything changes. Our vision is no longer impaired. We can see clearly. There are a number of scriptures where we read about Jesus as the Light of the World, the light that shines in the darkness. We also read that his followers are children of light, walking in the light. When we carry the light with us, we can help shine light and love in the darkness. We bring warmth to the cold shadows.
The song, Here I am to Worship, by Tim Hughes reminds us:
Light of the World
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes, let me see
Beauty that made this heart adore You
Hope of a life spent with You
The light of the world stepped into darkness. The light opens our eyes to the beauty and hope the light brings. Walking in the light, and having the light shine in our lives gives us hope and helps us to share hope and light and love in a dark and hopeless world.
God, help us to be light when others need it, and help us to find light when we need it. Amen
Spiritual Formation Exercise
- The Adult Discipleship Team offers a Midweek Examen every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. Put it on your calendar, ask for an alert, and join the online event here: meet.google.com/oby-tudn-ucg.