Jun 29 2014

Lunar Spirituality

DV-moon“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:11-12

e_CES2439Barbara Brown Taylor has long been considered one of America’s best preachers.  She also happens to be a very good writer.  I am currently reading her newest book, Learning to Walk in the Dark.  In this delightful book Taylor offers a positive take on darkness and speaks of its many benefic.  One of the things she does here is contrast “solar spirituality” with “lunar spirituality.”  She says full solar spirituality “deals with darkness by denying its existence or at least depriving it of any meaningful attention” and “focuses on staying in the light of God around the clock, both absorbing and reflecting the sunny side of faith.”  She goes on to say you can recognize a full solar church “by its emphasis on the benefits of faith, which include a sure sense of God’s presence, certainty of belief, divine guidance in all things, and reliable answers to prayer.”  All of this sounds good on the surface but Taylor says what these churches seem to lack is the skill for operating in the dark—a darkness that invariably invades each of our lives.

Barbara Brown Taylor claims to lack the gift of solar spirituality and says her gift is, instead, “lunar spirituality, in which the divine light available to me waxes and wanes with the season.” She talks about how the moon changes shape constantly and as such “the moon is a truer mirror for my soul than the sun that looks the same way every day.”  Things do not appear as clear or certain in a lunar spirituality but that does not mean it is any less real or genuine as solar spirituality.  For many, me included, it just seems more true to my experience and to reality.

Taylor does a good job of exposing the benefits—spiritual, physical and emotion—of darkness.  She is to be commended for tackling this subject; few would choose or dare to.  In Learning to Walk in the Dark I find a model of the  spiritual journey that resonates with my own experience.  My life and spirit do not seem to be cut out for a solar spirituality.  It is much more in tune with what Taylor calls lunar spirituality.

_CES7969If you are someone more attuned to a solar spirituality you may question those who walk this different path.  I hope you will be careful not to judge too quickly.  In some ways it may take a greater faith to walk this path than those who walk in the sunlight.  Regardless, both paths lead in the same direction.  Here is the good news Barbara Brown Taylor offers: “even when light fades and darkness falls—as it does every single day, in every single life—God does not turn the world over to some other deity.  Even when you cannot see where you are going and no one answers when you call, this is not sufficient proof that you are alone.  …darkness is not dark to God; the night is as bright as the day.”

At one point Taylor asks, “If we turn away from the darkness on principle, doing everything we can to avoid it because there is no telling what it contains, isn’t there a chance that what we are running from is God?”  Since many biblical characters, and the saints that have followed them, found or encountered God in the darkness we might, in fact, miss encountering the divine presence if we avoid the darkness at all cost.  I hope you’ll think about that the next time you look up into the night sky or find yourself enveloped by the absence of light.

–Chuck

(I took the top image at Death Valley National Park and the bottom two in Henderson, KY.)