I live on the 11th floor and with large windows along the entire exterior wall, my apartment has an abundance of light. A small hallway which leads to the bathroom has become a sort of meditative space for me. The walls are covered in icons and crosses, and at the end there are Sanctus statues of Mary, Joseph, and a corpus of Jesus. My apartment is not huge, but this smaller, out-of-the-way space feels a little quieter, a little more intentional. Beyond the hall is the bathroom which, when the door is closed and the light is left off, is pitch black. I was thinking the other day whether or not it would be strange to sit in the bathroom with the light off, to meditate? I mean, it’s so hard sometimes to find a totally secluded space in our frenetic lives so I thought I would try it.
I went into the bathroom and closed the door, without turning on the light. I ran my hand along the cold tile wall as I sank to the floor and tried to get comfortable. It was certainly silent and dark … very dark. I imagined it was like sitting in one of those isolation tanks as my eyes had nothing to focus on and my equilibrium became a bit off center. But then, after a few minutes, my eyes began to adjust and a very faint line of light appeared from under the door. From out of total darkness, my eyes began to make out the slightest sense of the sink, the tub, the toilet … and for a moment, I was disappointed by this unexpected intrusion. But I decided not to move and just sit quietly a bit longer as my mind released my hurts, my anxieties, and my frustrations– not bad for just sitting on the bathroom floor.
I was intentionally seeking the darkness in my little exercise, but how often do we find ourselves clinging to the light? Every one of us has felt the darkness close in around us at one time or another and it can feel so isolating, so disorienting. But I was reminded that we are never totally in darkness. Never.
“Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one.” (Psalm 139:12)
It’s interesting to me that in the beginning God divided the light from the darkness but he did not call it “good” (Genesis 1:3). The whole of creation exists within a ongoing cycle: “Evening came and morning came and it was the first day” (Genesis 1:5). We cannot ever fully separate light from dark. There are always slivers of light-even on a subatomic level. There is no need to insert dualistic thinking here! All things on earth are a mixture of darkness and light. When we idolize things as totally good or condemn the other as totally bad, we get ourselves into trouble. Even the “good things” of this world are subject to imperfection, wounding, and decay. Some of life’s greatest tragedies can produce good fruit and good people.
Jesus was always able to hold opposites together, as is the nature of God: scarcity and abundance, a tiny mustard seed and a mighty tree, death and life. So the next time you begin to worry about the fading of the light, wait patiently for your eyes to adjust and look for the slivers of light all around you.