A Longing Too Large to Name

By December 10, 2009 faith, language No Comments

Breath for the Bones Book Club: Thoughts on Chapter 11

As I write, the wind is whistling, howling around the edges of my house, announcing the certain arrival of the Midwestern winter. Typically the season’s first dusting of snow fills me with giddy pleasure, sparking within me a childlike anticipation for Christmas and baked goods and glittery ornaments.

Not this day though. Today, as I hear the wind, it sounds angry, and it seems to have riled-up the snow into mini tornadoes of frenzy, unable to find rest. All this has poked on my inner–Eeyore—and now I want to mope about, groaning of the cold and the noise.

I trust my Eeyore–melancholy will give way to Winnie-the-Pooh–optimism in time; perhaps even tomorrow. But for now, I am not shooing poor Eeyore away, for a shadowy perspective has a treasure all its own.

How glad I was to find author Luci Shaw in agreement in this week’s Breath for the Bones reading, chapter 11 titled “Understanding the Shadow Side of Creativity.” She says:

Christians who practice art must not always feel bound to produce sweetness and light. We have to recognize the darkness and shadow as well as the light, and realize that God allows shadows into our lives. (161)

What relief! I do not need to paste on a plastic smile, pretending that all of life is a merry-go-round. Conflict and resolution, chaos and order, faith and reason, mystery and manifest, longing and fulfillment—all are needed and necessary to gain the full spectrum of life this side of eternity. It is not all “sweetness and light” nor is it all “darkness and shadow.” How my insides prickle when I encounter a dear soul who tries to force all of life into only one of these containers, rewriting life to be all sweet or all sour.

Unrealistic optimism or unfounded pessimism—both are inaccurate, incomplete. We must acknowledge the presence of light and dark in this life, two sides of the same coin, for “light shows the darkness for what it is, and the dark shows the light for what it is” (Shaw 161).

It is the call of the Christian—especially the Christian artist—to speak the Truth, the full Truth, of this life that holds both joys and sorrows. “And poet Christians, if they are to reflect Creator and creation, must write the whole cycle into their work—the anguish as well as the celebration” (Shaw 168).

Today, with wind whipping and gray skies looming, I write of the anguish—not just the anguish of winter’s icy fingers creeping across the Midwest. It’s not that simple, not so shallow.

The anguish is of something deeper.

It’s what the weather represents. This is the anguish of the dark cycle of life, when everything freezes over, cold, motionless, mean. This is the time suspended—such as between crucifixion and resurrection—when all is still and quiet and dark, with gathering fear like storm clouds that whispers everything has changed (but, oddly, isn’t likely to change again). Here, life is covered over in darkness and frost, waiting for the spring that seems uncertain.

No, this is not merely melancholy gripping my heart. This is Truth, the cycle spinning round as it was meant to be. It is lovely in form, yet hard to swallow.

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