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Whups! I look closer and flip on the light, then blink several times into the mirror above the bathroom sink. More wrinkling on the sides of my mouth gives me the appearance of an angry crone; only with a broad grin does she vanish. And puffy pastiness spooks my eyes, a condition that suggests sleepless nights that rarely occur.

Then I remember my age and sink back upon my heels. For years I have been smoothing blush upon my sallow cheeks before social engagements lest others be alarmed by my cadaver-like complexion. All of this makes me vulnerable to cheerful come-ons to try this or that rejuvenation cream.

After marveling at the youthful complexion of Kate Middleton during Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding, I looked up her product, BB Cream Golden Glow, she has been touting, worldwide, much to the dismay of the Royals. The compound of water, cyclopentasiloxane, octyldodecanol, dimethicone, and glycerin promises a healthy glow effect with just the right hint of illumination, offers immediate and long-term hydrating benefits, protects skin from premature aging and environmental stresses, and promotes skin regeneration. Just the product for me, I mused!

However, I scrolled down further and learned that a twenty-ounce-jar of BB Cream Golden Glow costs $393.

Yet, my heart of hearts knows the utter foolishness of all of this. Only earnest obedience to the consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29) within our shadowy depths brings about this glow. In this daily dying, we find ultimate life. It’s always been that way.

 

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From my study window a soggy breeze weights a solitary leaf falling from the towering oak in my side yard and hurtles it toward the spent grass. Interminable moments pass until it is lodged within a muddy crevice, its bronzed face weeping, unattended, susceptible to even more desiccation.

Such begins autumn’s necessary stripping with its obvious parallels to human life—The outworn must give way to the new.

However, last July this truth imploded within my body as I lay on my dining room floor, my foot caught within the tubing of my vacuum cleaner. Howling pain bit chunks into my left shoulder, elbow, and hip. Unlike the solitary leaf, I needed help and fast.

It came: paramedics, surgery, rehab, physical and occupational therapy. Indeed, hundreds of helpers knocked on my door, each with their piece of the puzzle that would eventually restore me to wholeness.

Slowly, my body-mind-spirit began to knit through the prescribed exercises, that is, until mid-August when gnarly pain emerged in my hip. Multiple modifications of the stretches only worsened matters and I was back on pain medications. My suspicions mounted: the surgery had failed. I’m waiting to learn what will happen next.

 

 

Who were your first teachers about the dark? What impressions have you carried into adulthood: perhaps evil, danger, terror, the devil, death, bats, etc.? How do these color your perceptions and judgments today? Might there be a deeper way of considering the dark–one that enriches rather than diminishes?

Such questions find resonance in the nine essays, composed by the lunar spirit of Barbara Brown Taylor, a woman seasoned as wife, mother, grandmother, professor, theologian, and Episcopal priest. Fearlessly, she explores the underbelly of darkness from varied aspects: physical, psychological, emotional, relational, and spiritual. Each chapter is introduced by a different phase of the moon.

Strewn among these essays are anecdotes from the author’s childhood experiences with the dark, from her present communing with the drama of the night sky in rural Georgia, from caving in West Virginia, and from her visit to the crypt beneath the Gothic cathedral in Chartres, France.

What eventually emerges is a spirituality of darkness: how to find God–or let God find you–in the dark. For this, she recommends the honing of certain skills: give up running the show; expect bumps along the way that will frighten you; and ask the darkness to teach you what you need to know. A “dazzling light” does hide out in the dark.

Learning to Walk in the Dark (2014) companioned me during December’s darkness.

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