Knowing Shadows and Light

A reflection in words and images from Kathy P

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It is impossible to hear the news these days without being all too aware of the shadowy, dark places of our world:  the hatred expressed in Charlottesville; the violence in Las Vegas and in so many other scenes of gun massacres; the tragic loss and devastation of Puerto Rico, Houston, and Mexico City; the mean-spirited debates over health care, immigration, and budgetary priorities.

Too often our world is not a place of light, hope, and joy. 

For many of us, there are also the dark shadowy places in our personal lives: the ominous shadows in a x-ray evidencing a new tumor; the shadow of addiction; the dark feelings of loss or depression that hit each morning upon awakening.

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As someone who loves photography, I am aware that many photos are made by the juxtaposition of light and shadow.  Without the shadow, the amazing beauty of the light would not even be noticed. 

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Terrifying as the dark shadowy times of our lives may be, is it possible that those times help us see and experience God's amazing light in a deeper, more sustaining way?

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"God works best in the darkness.  The ugly caterpillar in its shriveled cocoon sees nothing but days and weeks of darkness.  Yet, God works a miracle in the midst of that darkness.  John of the Cross calls this the "dark night of the soul."  The butterfly in the chrysalis, baby in the mother's womb, seed in the ground, and authentic self in the soul must all pass a season in darkness.


In scriptures, Jonah emerged from the dark belly of the whale, Joseph escaped the dark pit where he'd been left to die, Paul was rescued from the dark prison cell, and Jesus rose from the grave.  All passed through darkness into transformation--a new understanding and appreciation of themselves, their mission in life, and the mystery of God."

(Pilgrim Walk in the Woods, Susanne Hassell)



Compassionate and mysterious God, you know all too well the dark places of our world and of our individual lives.  Remind us that even as you are at work in the darkness, you give us signs of hope through the care of friends and the kindness of strangers.  Help us to be your loving hands at work in this hurting world, and enable us to trust that, even when we are experiencing a dark night of the soul, you are at work bringing transformation and light. Amen.

Kathryn Lester-Bacon