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Etymology: Middle English derk, from Old English deorc; akin to Old High German tarchannen to hide
Date: before 12th century
1 a : devoid or partially devoid of light : not receiving, reflecting, transmitting, or radiating light b : transmitting only a portion of light
2 a : wholly or partially black b of a color : of low or very low lightness c : being less light in color than other substances of the same kind
3 a : arising from or showing evil traits; b : relating to grim or depressing circumstances
It is still long before daybreak when I awaken in the morning. The house is dark, but I don’t have any trouble finding my way from the bedroom to the coffee pot in the kitchen. There are landmarks along the way. I stop at the thermostat on the wall and turn the heat up a little. I know just where it is – it is in the same place as yesterday and the day before. Then I make my way around the coffee table and between the sofa and chair into the kitchen. I know where everything is – the furniture is where it has always been, so the darkness is easily navigated.
We all have interior landmarks we count on to help us navigate our inner lives. We give ourselves to vocations and jobs that shape our identity. We find companions to walk through life with us. We give birth to children who need us to walk with them. We find faith communities that sustain us. Eventually, these landmarks shift in some way – we lose our jobs to a failing economy or we have given enough years to it that we retire. Companions die, children move out, faith communities change. Spiritual practices that helped us feel connected to God seem flat, and we don’t know how to connect anymore.
What we counted on yesterday to help us navigate is gone or changed enough that we no longer recognize it.
My workday is flooded with people who are groping around in the darkness for something to grab, something that will steady them. The only way I can do my job well is to know what steadies me when my own landmarks have shifted.
On my office wall hangs a print with these words.
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown!”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way."
These words remind me that there will be times in my life when I will walk in darkness. It is inescapable. So I try to remember to put my hand into God’s and know that I am safe there.