The Light and the Dark

The Light and the Dark

We sit in this season of darkness. Cold. Helpless. Lost. Afraid. Consumed, at times, with our despair and our weakness and our lack of control over life and death and the events in between.

It doesn’t seem strange at all that it’s winter. I can’t imagine today without gray.

And yet.

And yet.

There’s a part of me that cries out against it, this soul-sucking sorrow. This agony and angst. There’s a spark, bright inside me, that quietly waits with its hopes and its wishes and its sweetness and its aches.

This is the season of darkness, it’s true. But I believe today more than ever that one of our most profound acts as human beings, and perhaps our most unifying, is our insistence on celebrating the Light at the exact time it appears lost to us.

Do you know that we all do this? This Light Dance? We do. All over the world, across genders and borders and creeds, we do.

We Swedes wreath our eldest daughters in candle crowns at the Festival of St. Lucia. We Dutch hand our children lanterns in honor of Sint Maarten who showed kindness to a stranger. We pagans light bonfires at the winter solstice and dance naked in the snow. We Jews light the Menorah faithfully for eight nights because we believe that somehow, miraculously, Light will find a way to keep shining. We Christians burn the candles of Advent, anticipating that Light will walk among us, at once as frail as baby and as strong as God.

We celebrate Loi Krathong in Thailand. And Diwali in India. And in doing so, we defy the dark and choose hope instead because we trust, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Light is coming. That Light, in fact, is already on the way.

Everywhere in the world, we rejoice in this triumph of Light over darkness as though we believe it will inevitably come to pass. We are ludicrous, ridiculous, irrational, and unreasonable people to do such a thing. And we are gorgeous and stunning and amazing for celebrating the Light as though we’re already victorious. For celebrating Life in the midst of death. For celebrating Peace in the midst of pain.

So come, Light. Come quickly. We’re ready for you. Especially now. Especially today when the darkness edges close. The spark inside us beckons you home, keeping the faith, and it knows your best secret. The spark inside us knows that the darkness doesn’t win in the end.



This was originally posted on the day of the Sandy Hook school shooting.
December 14, 2012
In loving remembrance.

Floating Lantern image credit Phaitoon via

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26 responses to “The Light and the Dark”

  1. […] The truth is, a few months ago, things were hard at our house. They’ve been hard before — we don’t live an uncomplicated life, after all, what with the five children and myriad special needs and we parents who are stunningly imperfect — and they’ll undoubtedly be hard again. But this time, my kid was falling wildly apart, psychiatrically speaking, which is, so far, my Very Least Favorite kind of falling-apart when it comes to our children. Mental illness is a deep, deep darkness — I would know — and it’s hard sometimes to remember to wave in the dark to the others who are waiting for dawn, as well, so we can recall we never wait alone. […]

  2. […] It’s just that I don’t feel the need for all new leaves right this minute. Nor do I think that just because some of my leaves are worn and comfortable and a little patchy in places means they need to be exchanged for shiny new leaves just yet. Leaf-growing, after all, is a process that takes energy and sunlight and nourishment and water, but it also takes the things I’m less inclined to see as growth: becoming crackly and brittle, falling to the earth, waiting in the darkness, sitting in the mud, pushing against the dirt and, eventually, straining again toward the light.  […]

  3. Beautifully put, Beth! I love how the celebration of the Light unites us across all spiritual, geographical and political lines… We are all hurting over this tragedy, we are all in the dark and praying for the light and we are all connected. Love and hugs to everyone who reads this.

  4. Such a beautiful reminder to all of us. We can all choose to be the light shining in someone’s world today…right now! That light will grow and spread. We may not be able to hold and hug all the people directly affected by this tragedy, but we all know someone who is in need of love in our own town, community, house, etc. We can start with that person and go from there. The light is shining strong and it is part of all of us.

  5. Thank you for this beautifully written piece. You always seem to know just what your readers need – be it humor, inspiration or reflection.

  6. I read once that darkness is not the opposite of Light. It is simply the absence of it. And so as we shine our tiny lights, we DO know we are victorious, because the darkness ALWAYS has to flee. The is no such thing as the opposite of a flashlight, or a lamp, where you could bring it into a lit up space and it would “radiate” darkness. If a tiniest spark of light shines in the darkness though, the darkness MUST give way, and flee, and try to find a hiding place somewhere as far from the light source as is possible.

    So yes, Beth, once again, right on… As much as it hurts to see the works of darkness, today especially, we will continue to shine until the Perfect Light dawns.

  7. And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.”

    Till, ringing singing, on its way, The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, a chant sublime, Of peace on earth, good will to men!

  8. Lighting all my candles tonight – menorah (which we’re lighting anyway), advent candles, our Martinmas lanterns, anything else I can find. I need to remember the light tonight, bask in it as I cry, after my kids fall asleep safe in their beds. When they can’t see me and be scared by things they’re too young to understand, I’ll cry for the empty beds and arms and hearts of other parents who are tied to me and everyone else who has ever loved a child. For now, I’ll give them extra kisses and hugs, laugh at their antics and listen, listen, listen when they tell me things, however mundane, because they are precious and can’t be taken for granted.

    • This. This is a beautiful as Beth’s post, and brought tears to my eyes all over again.

      Right there next to you, fragile and crying and heartbroken for the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters I’ve never met.

      May they find the strength to go on.

  9. Beautiful Beth. Thank you. Like you said, seek the Light!
    I too offer you our Pastor’s memo to our church today:
    Understanding why God allows someone to choose violence, hate, terror … is hard. Simplistic answers don’t help, either. Life can be devastating, and making sense of suffering like this is never a totally satisfying endeavor … because from our vantage point we can’t see everything we need to see in order to know everything we need to know. Still, we keep the faith, knowing there is hope in the promises of a God who doesn’t abandon us in our heartbreak, but in fact weeps with us in our darkest valleys. We turn to God in times like this, because nothing less will do, and deep down we know that the world has no answers for bigger than this world problems. We hold fast to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, because his empty tomb reminds us that death – which appears to be so final – doesn’t get the last word. God has our enemies covered. So we pray, “Thy Kingdom come” – where there is no violence and no death … and we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – that we might find better ways to protect the most innocent among us right now … and we pray, “Deliver us from evil” – knowing that, in the end, God’s light dismisses the darkness … and the darkness can never take back the light.

  10. Helen shared the same verse that came to my mind.

    Beth, you said so beautifully what I tried to share with my daughter today. Thank you for the words.

  11. Thanks for your thoughts. I’ve heard a lot of opinions, politics, bitter words today, but it’s good to remember this universal truth about mankind’s unfailing belief in the Light.

    “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5) – reassuring words that people read out at carol services at this time of year, every year – we need to take them to heart on days like these. The darkness, ultimately, cannot win.

  12. thanks…

    “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic, it is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness […] and if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

    ~Howard Zinn

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