I grew up in the “country," in a neighborhood dominated by farm fields. They stretched long over gently rolling hills, interrupted by silos that sliced through the horizon, straining for the sky. There were often cows in these fields. I could see them from my window as they grazed, their dappled white and black hide backlit by a green pasture.
At night, a thick quiet settled over us, a quiet only broken by the occasional car passing on the road by our house. No street lamps intruded the darkness. You could see the stars. On nights when the moon was small and the sky was clear, you could lay down in the driveway or in the dusky damp of the front yard and stare up at them. Tiny pin points of light, flung across the sky in dazzling splendor. They brought the comfort of smallness and a tight squeezing in my chest.
But it wasn’t always so magical. I remember this specifically on nights it was my job to drag the trashcan to the end of our gravel driveway. It didn’t always have wheels then. In those days, I’d have to drag it or, if it was particularly heavy, slip it onto a small handcart and wheel it down.
I would reach the point, about halfway down, when I stepped past the glow that radiated from the windows and stepped into darkness. I tried not to let my overly active imagination get the better of me. What could be lurking in those shadows? What animal might be stalking me? What bad guy might be sneaking up, about to clamp an iron hand over my screaming mouth? I was jumpy, bracing myself for some creature to jump out at me.
In a book series I read at the time, the main character would repeat a Bible verse to herself when she was afraid. I took her cue, and if you listened carefully, you would have heard my tiny voice repeating, “In what time I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee.”
I’m not often scared of the dark these days, though my imagination can still get the better of me. These days, it’s the metaphorical darkness that disquiets my mind. The darkness of evil, the darkness of a world that still groans under brokenness of sin.
I read of war crimes and heinous violence inflicted by humans, made in God’s image, on other humans, made in God’s image, and my stomach turns. How can this be tolerated? I see natural disasters, sickness, sorrow, betrayal. I see them here, in my town, in my church community, in my home. And I ask, how long, Lord? How long until you bring the completion of justice, how long until your healing is complete?
The small child, still deep within me, trembles, wondering what will lurch next from the shadows, whispering to herself the truth.
And what a blessed truth we remember this Advent season—that of a small child who came to drive back the darkness, to defeat the evils that lurk in the shadows, to shatter that darkness with Light everlasting. Thanks be to God.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone…
For to us a child is born,
To us a son is given;
And the government shall be upon his shoulder,
And his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:2, 6)