The Gathering Darkness

Solstice will soon be with us. December 21 is the longest night of the year for those of us living in the northern hemisphere. As we grow closer, the sun sets earlier. Generally, I have ignored this season and just complained about driving home from work in the dark. This year I am marking this longer season of darkness more thoughtfully.

Night and darkness have long been associated with times of sorrow and struggle. This December I find myself in a season of sadness—a dear friend died suddenly recently and I had the challenging honor of leading her memorial service. I am dismayed by the continuing resistance to vaccines, voter suppression and the ongoing downward spiral of climate change. I am quite concerned about the durability of democracy.

My usual way of dealing with pain is to distract myself with work or social events. But this year I am choosing a different path. I am choosing to feel it, to let my hurt and outrage and grief have a larger space in my heart. To some that might seem foolish—why NOT avoid those feelings as much as possible? But I know that pain avoided only grows larger. I am choosing every day to just sit in lament for a time.

Lament is part of my Christian tradition. Of the Psalms, over a third are either individual or community songs of lament. I hear lament in the story of Jesus in Luke 19: “As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace.’”

So, I am giving space each day to feel the sadness and honor the struggle. What I have been noticing after some days of this is that I feel fortified somehow after each time of sitting. Ironically, it leaves me more able to feel the joy that is all around me: a holiday celebration with students, putting up my Christmas decorations, holding my first grandchild as she sleeps.

Solstice blessings to you.