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Reasons to Hope: Shadows and Light

Photo: Dmitry Ratushny

“We are always on a journey from darkness into light,” writes the Celtic poet John O’Donohue. From the moment we are formed in our mother’s womb to the emergence into life on this earth, we move toward the light and yet we find comfort also in the rhythms of these opposing realms. Relieved from the heat of the sun, the land rests in darkness, and we too rest in dreams, only to wake again to mystery. If the sun were to turn away from the earth, we would be done for. Every day is a gift. 

“When love awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like the dawn breaking.” 

John O’Donohue

Last week we worked with disarming our fears by letting them lead us to our deepest, most vulnerable longing. This week we look at light, the element that clarifies and reveals the true nature of our fears. In a talk called “Love is the Only Antidote to Fear,” John O’Donohue tells a story about a man who was condemned to spend a night in a jail cell with a snake, and “it wasn’t a benevolent, happy, integrated, therapied snake; it was a really vicious, ‘I’m gonna get you’ kind of snake, I’m a hungry snake and I will kill…” Terrified, the man squeezed himself into the corner and spent the entire night hardly daring to breathe, for fear of waking the sleeping serpent. At dawn, as the sun began to make its way through the bars of the cell, he saw that the snake was even bigger than he thought, and he was absolutely frozen with fear, longing for his captors to release him. But as the light of day filled the cell, the snake in the corner revealed itself to be a pile of coiled up rope. 

If we look closely at what our fear is really made of, it’s often a lot less threatening than it seems. How darkness can trick the eye, but shadows don’t exist without the light. Fear does not exist without the deeper longing for love, for all to be made right, for security and belonging. If this is the case and our fears are all bound up in our desire for love, and darkness exists only as the absence of light, then we cannot lose. 

“Like the poet carpenter used to say, ‘You’re meant to have the freedom of the sons and daughters of God,’” John O’Donohue goes on, “What I love about Christianity is God was willing to come down in the clay and mud and take the full hit of the fragility of humanity.” 

Fear comes with fragility. The Garden of Gethsemane is Jesus walking with fear through the darkness and living to tell about it, but not without suffering, not without death, not without undergoing a deep transformation of fear into hope. Our great hope. 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. – Psalm 30:5

Writing the Book of Hope 

We’ve been writing the Book of Hope together for nineteen weeks now, but it’s never too late to join us! Here’s all you need to get started.

Join us every Monday on Instagram Live at 3pm ET and share your reasons to hope with us. Tag @rootandvinenews #reasonstohope 

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