If you've read some of the latests posts around here, you'll know that I've been experiencing my own dark night for the last five years, though I've only just begun to write of it. When I first read The Dark Night of the Soul a couple years ago, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and came to the conclusion that maybe the darkness I was experiencing wasn't meant to be fixed.
Since then, I have learned a whole lot more about God and myself and community through stillness and contemplation and pretty much giving up than I had in the previous three years through effort and discipline. When I finally decided to take a break from church a couple weeks ago, I was curious what insight the book might have for me in this new season. So I headed to the library and promptly tore through it, dog-earing every other page or so.
This time around, one of the most powerful sentences in the book for me was this one: "We have made an idol our images and feelings of God, giving them more importance than the true God they represent."
Here in the evangelical culture of the bible belt, we talk a lot about idols. In this context, nearly everything can be an idol: money, careers, marriages, self, drugs, food, even service. Never in my life, though, have I ever heard anyone suggest I could make an idol out of my experience of God. More importantly, I didn't know it was possible to wake up to find the Presence I had long worshipped absent, leaving me flailing and grasping for any hint of comfort to keep my head above water.
To be honest, in the months before my dark night began, I was little more than an addict, needing a bigger hit of spiritual connection each day to keep my soul satisfied. Then suddenly, my drugs were mysteriously cut off, God absent. For too long afterward, I tried returning again and again to the suppliers that had always come through for me before, the Bible, church, prayer, but they all came up empty. For years, I had been dependent on clear answers, felt presence, spiritual comfort, but now I was left with only my commitment to going through the motions. Is it any surprise I soon found myself spiraling down into disappointment and doubt and fear?
It's only recently that I have begun to embrace the process of detoxification, of letting go of any hope of returning to the old ways. May says that the dark night is an act of emptying and resensitizing, because "it is as if we have gorged ourselves on rich meals for so long that we cannot appreciate the delicate freshness of a sip of spring water." I am certainly emptying, but honestly I don't know that I will ever feel God's presence again in my life, and that is okay, at least today. Because I don't think his absence means He is incapable of being found, only that I won't find him in the same ways. I'm not sure I want to return down those paths again anyway.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, please get your hands on The Dark Night of the Soul. There is so much insight there. I don't do sponsored posts or affiliate links. I just really want you to read this book, because you are not alone and it's not your fault.