Humility, like darkness, reveals the heavenly lights.
-Henry David Thoreau
I have been thinking a lot about the nature of waiting. Thumbing through a few things tucked away from a year ago, I stumbled upon a self-portrait drawn by WJ at school. It is hard for me to look at this sketch. His teachers told me that when they asked him why he was covering his face in black, WJ said that he was drawing long hair that covered his face, all but one of his eyes. They believed maybe he was imagining one of his Rock Star fantasies; many Rockers do have long hair.
But when I looked at this drawing, I recognized the image right away. That great darkness, broken only by an empty place.
What WJ sketched as his own face that day in school a year ago was his memory of the image he had seen on the screen of the ultrasound machine at my midwife’s office a few weeks before. Darkness. Lots of it. And in the midst of the darkness an emptiness where a baby was expected to be.
In the weeks that followed that ultrasound appointment last year, during the weeks of waiting for the inevitable miscarriage to come, WJ crept beside me when we were alone and asked me the kinds of questions I had imagined we might not face until his teenage years. How could God have known the baby if the baby didn’t have a name? Why wasn’t God taking care of our baby?
Other times he made quiet declarations. It is dark inside your body where the baby was. Yes, I replied, it is dark inside of me.
There comes a great darkness when you realize the extreme powerlessness of your inability to keep your children safe, even when held within yourself, even when tucked so perfectly away from the world.
In a way our family all followed the baby into the darkness this year. While in the first days this darkness was deep and black like a nightmare, our eyes slowly adjusted to it and I have been able to see the wisdom in WJ’s soft pronouncement to me.
I can see now that this particular darkness is less like that of the deep of the night and more like the dark of the depth of the womb. We have been encompassed in these weeks and months, encompassed within the love of family and friends, held tight by the prayers of those same and others. We have been able to hear the world beating on around us. We have been sustained. In this darkness we have been growing. And changing. Waiting to come out into the light and see newness and all that has been prepared.
In the first few weeks of school, WJ’s teachers focus on Creation and tell this story again and again. In the beginning there was a great darkness. And then the Word spoke light. But the darkness was not gone. It was called Night and it was called Good. Days passed and then darkness was broken, but not by emptiness. It was dotted instead by heavenly lights.
Waiting implies lack. But it also hints at hope. We are indeed ready to wait. And I hope our waiting reveals humility—an understanding that we are not in control but instead held safe, a trust that the darkness is eternally dotted with heavenly lights.
There is a prayer prayed at our school and at bedtime tonight here in our home:
God is light.
In him there is no darkness at all.
God is not far from any one of us.
In Him we live, and move, and have our being.