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187 pages, Hardcover
First published April 8, 2014
It is the inability to bear dark emotions that causes many of our most significant problems, in other words, not the emotions themselves. When we cannot tolerate the dark, we try all kinds of artificial lights, including but not limited to drugs, alcohol, shopping, shallow sex, and hours in front of the television set or computer. There are no dark emotions . . . just unskillful ways of coping with emotions we cannot bear. The emotions themselves are conduits of pure energy that want something from us: to wake us up, to tell us something we need to know, to break the ice around our hearts, to move us to act. (78)
Once you have emerged from whatever safe religious place you were in – recognising that your view of the world is one worldview among many, discovering the historical Jesus, revolutionising your understanding of scripture and up-dating your theology; nce you have changed the way you do church, or at least changed the music at your church and hired a pastor who twitters, or you can no longer find any church within a fifty-mile radius in which you can let your guard down long enough to pray; Once the Dalai Lama starts making more sense to you as the pope or your favourite preacher, and your rare but renovating encounters with the Divine reduce all your best words to dust, well, what’s left to hold onto?
I do not believe I am describing a loss of faith in God here. Instead, I believe I am describing a loss of faith in the system that promised to help me grasp God not only by setting my feet on the right track but also by giving me the right language, concepts, and tools to get a hook in the Real Thing when I found it. To lose all that is not the same thing as spending eleven months in a dungeon (speaking of John of the Cross). It may not even qualify as a true dark night of the soul, but it is without doubt the cloudiest evening of the soul I have known so far.
After so many years of trying to cobble together a way of thinking about God that makes sense so that I can safely settle down with it, it all turns to nada. There is no permanently safe place to settle. I will always be at sea, steering by stars. Yet as dark as this sounds, it provides great relief, because it now sounds truer than anything that came before. (139-140)
In many ways this book is the third in a trilogy dedicated to scooping up the bottom halves of things, or at leasts the words used to describe them - first the world, then the flesh, and now the dark - not only because these words have been libeled long enough but also because there is so much life in them that has been rejected on bogus grounds. If there is any truth to the the teaching that spiritual reality is divided into halves, it is the truth that those pairs exist in balance, not opposition.Purely by accident, I read that trilogy in order (Leaving Church, Altars in the World and now this one) over the past few months. These books (together with the wonderful women in my small group) have shown me many new and wonderful ways to see my faith as a journey ... not a destination.
Part of it is that she is a she; the other part is that she is entirely human. Most of the time I think she understands me better than her son does, since she has a whole DNA spiral and a body that operates on a lunar cycle...
...learning to walk in the dark has allowed me to take back my faith, moving it from the glare of the full solar tradition to recover by the light of the moon.