by Kate Kennington Steer, all images by Kate Kennington Steer
As I was journalling this morning about a blog post I recently finished writing and what more planning I needed to do for my own Advent series on imageintoikon, I found myself reflecting on the exact words Christine chose for the Godspace Advent theme this year. The verb ‘to lean’ caught at my attention. As a physical movement forward, back or to the side, up or down, it could range from anything from a slight inclination up to a definite bend, and the resulting visible change could be infinitesimal or dramatic. And I reconnected with a mini-mantra that came to me a couple of years ago after a particularly acute year of physical ill health:
sit in the mess
listen to the pain
lean into the discomfort.
It struck me this morning that leaning towards the light could also cause discomfort. The comfort that most of us derive from the lift of spirits a sunny day can bring, can cause torture for a migraine sufferer. As a photographer, I know very well that light can blind as much as it can reveal.
The more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable the nature of light became.
So if one believes, as I do, that all light comes from God, and that one of the names of God is Light, and that this name describes something particular about the character of God, then one is forced to confront the knowledge that the Light who invites us to become whole in her, is not a cosy, reassuring figure. Light has a power beyond my wildest dreams. Light is Power. But the amazing reality of the invitation to lean towards the One who is Light, is that I am invited to become one with this Light. Indeed, Light longs to share every aspect of what light is with me.
I wonder, what would happen if I were to truly accept this gift and become a light of the Light?
I would have to be prepared for the real nature of Light. Not just the soft focus, fuzzy haze of bright cloud light, but the sharp brilliance that shows up exactly where all the shadows are. Accepting the light of Light would mean accepting the dark of Light too.
As a sufferer of depression, I am only too aware that there are plenty of shadows already out there in my life, and they cause plenty of painful stories to rise up in me, most of which I am highly reluctant to let see the light of day. So, why would I wish to open to the potential of experiencing even more? And yet, reading Russ Harris’s book, The Reality Slap, I was reassured to read this:
This pain tells you something very important : that you’re alive, that you have a heart, that you care, and there’s a gap between what you want and what you’ve got. And this is what all humans feel under such circumstances… What would you have to not care about, in order to not have this pain? (102, 106)
The shadows tell me that I care about the Light. They tell me that I really am a “light-baby”, attracted to the mystery of what light conceals as much as it divulges. They tell me I want to be present to the Light in as many ways as I can, in all areas of my life. This is what I care about, and so this is what hurts when, for so many different reasons, I fall short of realising this is my purpose.
Leaning towards the Light then is going to mean leaning into whatever and wherever discomfort comes this Advent, learning to listen to what wisdom the shadowed messes of painful places wish to bring to me.
I know The Light will speak through my dark.