Day Nine in "The Journey of the Wise Men: Twelve Days and Twelve Ways to Deepen Your Spiritual Practice" On Christmas, a Light broke into the darkness of the world's night, and a star---marking the crossroads between East and West, North and South---stood sentinel above the place of Christ's coming. You glimpsed this star while still far way, and awakened by fresh hope, left everything behind, setting out on the one journey that truly matters: find the Light, come hell or high water.
The one thing you underestimated was the darkness---it feels like hell and high water. Out here, between the life you left behind and the Light you seek, it's night. Much of the life of prayer is spent here---in between, in the dark. Here, you have more questions than answers; you feel more of God's absence than God's presence; you've set out for the Light, but it's only gotten darker; you wonder if this wasn't so wise after all.
But darkness is the one great necessity in the spiritual life. The saints will all tell you this. Your ego loves daylight, but night unsettles, even unseats it. The ego---the little self-manager within you---doesn't know how to function in the dark. When you can see, your ego knows just what to do. But in the darkness all your mental faculties are disoriented, and you have only your heart of faith to guide you. (Isaiah 50.10-11)
True prayer must take you by the dark path. Only so can you come to the true Light that is true God and not some projection of your ego. In the darkness you must let go of all but faith---all props and pretension, all assumptions and preconceptions. In the darkness you will be tempted to turn back and return to lesser lights. But if you press forward, blind to all but the faint light of faith, you will find what you're looking for.
Too long I've feared the darkness. Today, I will embrace it as grace---a severe but liberating mercy. I will walk through the darkest valley, and I will be afraid. May my fear strengthen my faith until faith is all I have.
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