The Dark

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to hear Episcopal priest, author, and professor Barbara Brown Taylor. Although her talks weren’t long, I (and I assume others) were intrigued from the very beginning.  One of her God-given gifts is the power of words.  Being read to is not one of my favorite past times, but Taylor’s voice, and more importantly, her subject matter was what drew me in from the beginning.  Taylor spoke regarding Genesis 14, and particularly on the identity of Melchizedek.  Although she was willing to let the vagueness of the text speak for itself, she also offered a few principles I thought simple yet powerful enough to jot down.

“God works through religious strangers.  Some people are different, yet God chooses them to affect you and/or your circumstances.”

“God blesses through all kinds of people in all kinds of ways.”

I left that talk thinking maybe we search too hard for a meaning in texts that are vague.  In other words, could it be the narrator of Genesis (1) didn’t know the details of certain historical accounts, (2) didn’t think them important to the “take away,” or (3) intentionally left them vague for a bigger reason.  Defining God contains a bit of mystery.  Maybe that’s the simplest sentence you’ll read today.  But it’s important.  The point is:  Can we ever be okay with simply saying, “I don’t know.”?

The vagueness is what Taylor would call “the dark.”  Examples in Scripture are numerous but include the exodus at night, and Jesus’ dialogue with the Pharisee Nicodemus (John 3).  Blaise Pascal once spoke of a “God-shaped hole” within each of us.  Taylor would proffer the search for what fits in the hole is part of the gift.  In other words, there’s an intimacy found in the dark (vagueness); whereas we’re never promised certainty – at least this side of paradise.  Finally, Taylor stated, “Practice faith in the dark until something blooms again.”

Although we’ve been taught (and perhaps teach others) about the things that “go bump in the night,” what might we learn about God’s character within the darkness?  I’m currently reading Taylor’s latest work Learning to Walk in the Dark (Harper Collins, 2014).  More on that later!

If God is sovereign (I believe that He is), He is even bigger than the dark and those things contained in the dark.  He remains sovereign even in the midst of storms.  Maybe the darkness is offered not only to teach us about ourselves but to encourage us to appreciate the light even more.

 

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