Darkness is often perplexing. Many feelings roll through the mind –– disorientation, lostness, hopelessness, panic and paralysis. Finding a good footing in the dark is difficult because the daytime markers are not visible. If only there was a little light!
Darkness is a reality in life. Yet it is often in the darkness where rejuvenation begins. Perseverance is needed while waiting for the dawn. Ultimately time, life and light will bring renewal and transformation.
I am reminded of the truths of what I’ve just written when I reflect on my compost piles in my backyard. Several warm winter days have allowed me to turn some of the compost. I see how a layer of material blankets the pile making everything dark underneath. What is underneath that layer doesn’t make any sense initially. The pile consists of things discarded from the yard and garden – old vines, weeds, overripe vegetables, clippings and more.
But there is life in the darkness of the pile. Fungi, microbes and insects all work their magic under that light-blocking layer. The decay is evident as I turn the pile. I can no longer see the shapes of the original items. Instead I find dark, rich humus that has formed in the dark. The entire pile has become an energizing feast for plants in my next season of gardening.
While I turn my compost, I think about the comparable actions that God wants for me in dark times. The meaning of darkness and renewal is enriched as I recall Wendell Berry’s poem “A Purification.”
At the start of spring I open a trench
in the ground. I put into it
the winter’s accumulation of paper,
pages I do not want to read
again, useless words, fragments,
errors. And I put in it
the contents of the outhouse
light of the sun, growth of the ground,
finished with one of their journeys.
To the sky, to the wind, then,
and to the faithful trees, I confess
my sins: that I have not been happy
enough, considering my good luck,
have listened to too much noise,
have been inattentive to wonders,
have lusted after praise.
And then upon the gathered refuse
of mind and body, I close the trench,
folding shut again the dark,
the deathless earth. Beneath that seal
the old escapes the new.
May Christ’s renewing light be evident to you as you reflect on the Lenten texts and devotionals this week. Be willing to “compost” in the dark and wait for rejuvenating life and light.