As you might know, we’re still working to get that colleague released from captivity and sometimes I find myself thinking about him. Where is he? In what sort of place is he being held? How does he handle these days and months of blackout? His life, past and future on hold—no news from home, no ability to make any plans - only able to be in this day, this hour.
I wonder how I would manage in his place? I imagine myself in a closed cell. I imagine it is dark. The hours tick by interminably. What would I do in this state of perpetual waiting? I would have to move, exercise, find ways to make the time pass.
When I stop to think about it, that urge towards activity in the dark places of waiting, that’s me. It’s what I do. Fill the darkness with movement! Fill the waiting with motion! The voice in my head says, “It doesn’t matter what you do, just keep moving. Whatever you do, don’t stop.” To stop, to be truly still, is to face the darkness, to enter into the waiting in a different sort of way. In a way that I am not ready for.
My reading today took me to the wise sayings of King Solomon - “It is the glory of God to conceal things.” Hidden, dark, covered, concealed: there is glory in that? It sounds the furthest thing from glorious to me.
The last few years have, for me, been a journey of not knowing. Not knowing the future, not really being able to plan, knowing only that I am to wait and to allow something new to emerge. All my natural instinct towards activity has been stymied. Yes, I have kept busy; yes, there has been no shortage of things to do; yes, looking back there has been a sort of momentum. But the big picture, the overall plan, the ‘how’ and ‘when’ and ‘with whom’ has been withheld.
Honestly, a kind of panic rises within me in this place of not knowing; I feel it in my chest and in my arms. I calm myself by taking deep breaths and writing lists of things to do. Goals and objectives that I can enumerate and check off; meaningless To Do items that give me a feeling of control, however tenuous. These lists, I think they serve the same purpose as the paper bag one breathes into when hyper-ventilating: I can calm myself, make myself believe that everything is okay. These lists help me feel the earth beneath my feet as something solid again, reliable. “Just keep moving,” they tell me. “The darkness will be light again.”
Every so often, on this journey into concealment, it all becomes a bit too much (classic British understatement for you, there!). Despondency sets in, even the urge towards motion is stilled. I don’t really want to see people, resisting the need to put a brave face on things, resisting having to hear all about their super, productive, fulfilling lives. This darker period in the overall journey is a repeated sequence, at least for me. It is a time of fretful tears, of struggle and resistance, and ultimately of surrender. Surrender makes it possible to once again embrace the darkness and the not knowing, to content myself once again with taking just the next step, the only one that is visible.
In The Cloud of Unknowing, the anonymous author writes, “Set yourself to rest in this darkness as long as you can, always crying out after Him.” This resting-yet-seeking seems to be the key place of tension in which we experience the glorious concealment of God. Can I find a way to rest in the darkness, to surrender to the passing hours, without giving in to desolation? Can I keep crying out, keep seeking for release, without succumbing to the deception that it is I, through my own activity, who will save myself?
King Solomon’s proverb concludes with the encouragement, “But the glory of kings is to search things out.” The idea of God’s glory being in concealment is a little beyond me. There is so much that is hidden, so much I do not - and probably never will - understand. Adrian’s illness, Russell’s death, good people running headlong into pain and trauma? No, making sense of these things is impossible for us. But I am willing to trust that something bright and beautiful - maybe even glorious - will be rescued from the wreckage of these collisions between the kingdom that is coming and the world that is.
What I can embrace far more easily is that there is glory in searching things out. There is something good about having questions. There is something beautiful about admitting that we do not know everything. Those blank lines waiting to be filled at the bottom of my To Do list, that hiccoughing sigh of surrender at the end of my desperate cry-fest? That is a place of glory, a place of goodness, a thing of beauty.
So I will rest in this darkness as long as I can. And when I can’t rest anymore, yet the darkness remains, I will allow my not-resting to be a sort of searching: trusting that the search itself is glorious.