Dark Nights & Warm Hearts
I just read a fascinating story about Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross. When she was writing her famous book on death and dying, part of her research involved interviewing dying patients in the hospital, trying to find out how they felt as they faced death. As she went from room to room in the hospital, she began to notice a remarkable pattern. Sometimes she would go into a dying person's room and the person would be calm, at peace, and tranquil. She also began to notice that often this was after the patient's room had been cleaned by a certain hospital orderly.
One day, Dr. Ross happened to run into this orderly in the hospital corridor, and she said to her, "What are you doing with my patients?"
The orderly thought she was being reprimanded by the doctor, and she said, "I'm not doing anything with your patients."
"No, no," responded Dr. Ross. "It's a good thing. After you go into their rooms, they seem at peace. What are you doing with my patients?"
"I just talk to them," the orderly said. "I've had two babies of my own die on my lap. But God never abandoned me. I tell them that. I tell them that they aren't alone, that God is with them, and that they don't have to be afraid."
Many of us have lost so much over the past year. As a culture it feels as if we have descended into a dark place where anxiety and fear run rampant in our lives. I sometimes feel like every time I get a glimpse of the light something happens to knock me back into the dark. The Christian mystic, John of the Cross, described an internal battle called "the dark night of the soul", a place of deep unknowing. We are in a place of unknowing, between one world that we knew and one that we cannot possibly predict.
In our waiting, our task is to learn to trust the journey. I have learned that wherever I am, whatever the night brings, I am precisely where I need to be. I may not like it or want to be there but it is precisely where God wants me. The dark nights open a pathway to the greatest of all truths, God is with us, and we are with God, and that is enough.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans, "Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God."
Today, I give thanks for the orderly who knew that simple truth and could teach the rest of us something of faith, hope and love. I pray that you will find this truth for yourself in the midst of your own dark nights. Dark nights and the warm, reassuring presence of the heart of God, they are always found close together. May your dark nights move you ever closer to the heart of God.