Over the past few months, I’ve felt like my troubled outlook about the world may be gradually eroding the rest of my life. Others have shared similar feelings: That we’re wandering through the darkness of our vulnerabilities. That we’ve lost our sense of emotional buoyancy. That the confining skin of these thought patterns is hard to shed.
To help sort out those feelings, I’ve reread the laments of Jeremiah, and found some helpful perspectives in the work of other writers. One example follows….
In her personal memoir, 1Vermont University law professor Katharine Blake recounts an awards dinner keynote address at Stanford University’s Law School. The speaker, Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the 2Equal Justice Initiative, observed that “Sometimes what was (is) required of us is a willingness to pay attention to darkness, a willingness to be in hopeless places as a witness.” At that moment, it felt like a door had been opened for Blake. “This was the first time I’d heard it (darkness/hopelessness) described not only as a liability but as a strength,” she recalls.
Those words sparked some liberating thoughts for me as well. I haven’t completely processed what Stevenson suggests, but it seems possible that experiencing the hopelessness of dark times can equip me to serve as a guide for others unsure where to turn. That I can give appreciative attention to the effects of darkness around me, inside of me. That I can hold fiercely onto moral clarity—God-inspired virtues such as humility, courage, steadfastness, empathy and mercy.
What many of us are experiencing now is not the end of God’s story, God’s actions. While we yearn for deliverance, we can also recognize the ways in which darkness and hopelessness draw us closer to each other. Closer to God.
We can be attentive witnesses….
1The October, 2010 speech by Stevenson (lawyer, social justice activist and New York University law professor) is referenced in The Uninnocent: Notes on Violence and Mercy by Katharine Blake (©2021, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, page 56).
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