#Lent: Be Near

Christ be near at either hand,
Christ behind, before me stand,
Christ with me where e’er I go,
Christ around, above, below.

II

“It’s too dark.”

For a while I stopped fighting that battle with the twins – how much light to keep on in their room. After saying “good night” I walked quickly out and at the last minute switch off the lights. I wanted it to be pitch black so they wouldn’t be able to see everything in their room begging to be scattered and dumped out onto the floor. Clothes. Legos. Books. Stuffed animals. Curtains. But they would thrash and flail, crying their protests, and that felt threatening to me. What if they fell off the bed? Or crashed into a wall? So we kept blue night lights on or sometimes we would dim the overhead light to the lowest setting. Christmas lights during the winter. The projection of animals onto the ceiling spinning like a carousel.

I remember being afraid, too. As a child I had deep, heavy dreams that held me down in sleep, and I would squirm and kick trying to climb out of the darkness. Dreams terribly vivid, blurring with reality, and an undeniable presence there, too. I finally awoke on my back and looked down at my blankets – all undisturbed with no sign of the struggle. My eyes stayed open for a while out of fear of sliding back down into that hole. Until I was too old I would climb in bed with my parents and squeeze in between them comforted by the sound of their breathing on my neck. My father’s snoring would surely keep that awful and strange darkness at bay.

II

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars….” As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him… – Genesis 15

The night sky will heal me – not by reassuring me that I will be just fine, but by reminding me of my place in the universe. Darkness is necessary to our health. Without enough of it, we make ourselves sick with light. – Barbara Brown Taylor

II

Even as I’m learning to embrace that darkness I see the necessity to teach the children to live in it, too. We have too many lights, too much brilliance, an overabundance of shiny, bright distractions to keep us from facing those deeper realities. How can they know the odd and wonderful feeling of nearness experienced in our darkest hours? The stars in the night sky may seem distant but I can hardly remember a time I felt God’s closeness more than looking up at shooting stars across the Milky Way in a Colorado wilderness. Something about darkness and stars, and feeling profoundly that need for God’s nearness makes me feel more human and alive.

Christ be in my head and mind,
Christ within my soul enshrined,
Christ control my wayward heart;
Christ abide and ne’er depart.

Christ the King and Lord of all,
Find me ready at his call;
Christ receive my service whole,
Hand and body, heart and soul.