And I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, which call you by your name, am the God of Israel. ~Isaiah 45:3
Sometimes I get distracted; in fact, I am often quite easily sidetracked. It is something I’m working on, and the first step is acknowledgment. So as I contemplated this evening’s post, I knew I was going to use this quote about the “treasures of darkness” as written about by the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah is my favorite book on the bible–yes, I have one. I may no longer be a faithfully practicing Christian, but I do appreciate some of the reading I did back when I was. See? Distracted. Anyway, I got distracted by reading commentaries about what the meaning of this passage was, then after a while I realized that I don’t really care about the original meaning. I am going to make my own meaning of it for the purposes of tonight’s post.
Years ago, back in my “church days,” I wrote a newsletter article using this text as the foundation, very much as I am using it tonight (except back then there was no internet and I had to look it up the hard way: in the actual book, and then literally cut and pasted the article into my newsletter. But there I go, digressing yet again.) I knew even then that there were times when I preferred darkness; that in times of pain or confusion, I would retreat to my cave, a dark place in my mind where I was safe, though isolated, from everything around me that hurt or frightened me. In my cave I could hunker down until I could make sense or come to terms with what was bothering me. I would emerge, still somewhat tender, but a little more ready to reengage the world, if on a more cautious, more limited basis. The treasures of darkness.
During intense times in my church days, I would withdraw to the “prayer closet,” where I would pray, cry, and make sense of the world, and ponder the things I didn’t understand, until I came to some kind of resolution. I literally sat on the floor in the small closet in my small bedroom. It was dark and oddly comforting to sit amongst the shoes, my hanging close brushing my head and shoulders, enfolding me. I would wonder if it that was how it felt to have been in the womb–dark, close, muffled, oddly comforting. I would emerge from the literal closet back into the brightness of my room, my eyes readjusting to the light, and feeling better than I had went I’d climbed in. The treasures of darkness.
Those experiences were in my younger days. Now, I am not sure I could fold myself up as easily to fit in the closet, and I’ve permanently come out anyway. The cave, of course, has no such limitations, as it is a construct of my mind, but I’ve come to recognize that I can’t mentally fold myself up any more than I could do it physically. It was helpful back in the day, but I’m a grownup now, and we don’t run and hide in our caves when things get difficult…do we?
While I am technically a day ahead of when I should be talking about this, I find my mind going to the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus retreated to pray through the anguish he was feeling at his approaching arrest and ultimate execution. It wasn’t unusual for him to withdraw; as I’ve written about before he frequently withdrew when he needed to pray or simply to create space between himself and the throngs that so frequently shadowed him. This was different, however. Gethsemane was like my cave or prayer closet; Jesus went there to wrestle with his doubts, his fears, and to attempt to extricate himself from the situation he was about to face.
I can imagine the scene. This is what I love about Jesus the son of man. He is doing what I or any human would when confronting what was coming. He was pleading, bargaining with his father. Is there any way around this? Is there another way to accomplish what needs to be done? He had been quite brave throughout the evening, telling Judas, “Go do what you need to do,” knowing that Judas was going to fetch the authorities who would arrest him and set his feet on that final path, the via dolorosa. Now that he was up against it, he was afraid. It is written that he sweated great drops of blood, he was so anguished, but when it was all said and done, and he had poured himself out in prayer, he emerged having come to grips with his situation.
Jesus didn’t have a cave, he had a garden. And then he had the tomb, in the dark, muffled, quiet from which he emerged after three days later, back into the light and changed from how he’d entered. The treasures of darkness. I for one am grateful for my cave, my closet, and perhaps someday soon, my garden. They are each representations of safety, and a quiet place to struggle and make sense of things. Perhaps when I next go in, I too will emerge changed from how I enter. May it be so.