Stumbling Through the Dark and Learning Another Way

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, August 23, 2020

By: Sydna Street

The year 2020 began with such promise – a new year, a new decade – and it just had a nice ring to it. If there’s a line between the two 20s, then 2020 becomes 20/20 which is a measure of perfect vision. I remember that measure well because as a child in grade school, my eyesight had failed to be measured as perfect. Stumbling, then, was not new to me. Stumbling now is both new and different but it has sparked a memory that has come back to me many times this summer – a memory that I have come to cherish.

Not long after my husband, Bill, and I moved to Goochland County, we built a pond on our farm. We used to swim in that pond all summer, often lingering at the end of the day to watch the sunset; and often we found ourselves needing to find our way home in the dark. Although I used a flashlight, it did little to illumine our path causing me to stumble along the way to catch hold of Bill’s arm. Then he taught me another way – what he called the “Indian style” of seeing in the dark. “Turn off your flashlight, Sydna, and just stay quiet and wait. Give your eyes time to adjust.” Gradually it would happen. The path would become bathed in just enough light to see our way home through the woods.

That was many summers ago. In this summer of 2020, I awake every day to a dusk of unknowing. Maybe you’ve experienced this, too. My normal patterns of moving through the day don’t work anymore. Once again I’m stumbling for something – something to hold on to that’s familiar. That’s when the memory of walking in the dark through those woods comes back to me and I hear Bill’s words of encouragement to become quiet – to wait and let myself adjust to a new way of seeing, for another way of knowing. St. Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:14 comes to mind: “May the eyes of your heart be enlightened, may you know the hope to which he has called you…”.

In her book Mystical Hope, Episcopal priest, Cynthia Bourgeault, suggests the path of the eyes of the heart is like dropping your mind into your heart. “If you can just turn off your ordinary way of thinking for awhile, another reality will take shape,” she wrote. She explains this way of knowing with the metaphor “sailing in the fog” which is a way of knowing that she learned well while sailing off the coast of Maine. It’s not unlike what Bill taught me – get quiet and let another part of yourself go to work.

Father Thomas Keaton calls it “taking a vacation from yourself…detaching yourself from thinking long enough to begin to trust a deeper something inside…”. AA calls it “Letting go and letting God.”

Whatever way it’s called, it’s a bit scary and it takes some practice. But why not practice? Why not take a vacation from yourself these days? I do! I let go and let St. Paul’s prayer fill the eyes of my heart with his beautiful image of hope to which we have all been called.

“I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the power to comprehend with all God’s saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know this love which surpasses knowledge……that you may be filled with all fullness of God .” – Ephesians 3:17-19