The God of Darkness, Sadness and Sloth

I’m starting with the sloth rather than the dark.  We know a lot about darkness, don’t we, but not so much about sloths.  So here are some baby sloths being----just slothful.

I Praise God for sloths, and all other slow, creeping creatures. They are all my models this week.  I spent 3 workdays, the precious hours of school when I do all my writing----doing nothing. I am working on doing nothing (but this post) for today as well. And maybe even the weekend.
Because darkness comes. Because death comes in the night and then in the day. Because some people are unable to love. Because there are times when no matter what you do, you will be wrong, and there’s nothing good in you.  Human love will fail you again and again, and there we are in the dark, again, pretending all is light. Barbara Taylor Brown’s beautiful book Learning to Walk in the Dark speaks of this, of how we love the light and fear the dark. In truth, God often comes to us most visibly and powerfully in the dark. 
In these times, you cannot work. Or think. Or write. And it’s okay, because now your work is different. Now your work is to rest.  To stop performing, to collapse upon your bed, to cry however long and often you need, to look out the window at the ocean and the clouds, to call a friend, to sleep, to ask for prayer. And to be sad.      That’s your job. That’s what you’re here to do right now. And if you're on the forgiveness journey, forgiving a parent or someone who has harmed you---you must start here. Because all is not right with the world. And we needn’t pretend that it is.  The full armor of God doesn’t protect against sadness and betrayal----because these are not our true enemies. Our true enemies right now are Blind Faith and Busy Faith, the kind of faith that shuts its eyes in the dark, refusing to see the dark----and the kind of faith that chases madly after achievement and service, hoping we will be named worthy because of it.  
                                                ( Stop.  Yes, of course, read your Bible, but you’ve done nothing wrong, and your problem is not lack of faith or poor theology. Os Guiness in his book, God in the Dark, considers how God took care of Elijah when Elijah was depressed and overwhelmed:  “God's remedy for Elijah's depression was not a refresher course in theology but food and sleep... Before God spoke to him at all, Elijah was fed twice and given a good chance to sleep.  . . . This is always God's way. Having made us as human beings, He respects our humanness and treats us with integrity. That is, He treats us true to the truth of who we are. It is human beings and not God who have made spirituality impractical.”  We have indeed made spirituality impractical----and inhumane.  As you walk in human sadness and sloth---which you must do by faith for at least a little while---you will find rescue.  In his own sadness, Moses quieted his heart enough to write this bitter truth: “The length of our days is 70 years---     or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”
But that truth, written from the dark, led to this final truth that ends the Psalm, words from God himself: “Because *she loves me,” says the Lord,      I will rescue her; I will protect her, for she     Acknowledges my name. She will call upon me, and I will answer        Her; I will be with her in trouble, I will deliver her and honor her. With long life will I satisfy her   And show her my salvation.” 
(*Gender changed so women can KNOW and FEEL God speaking to US as well.)  He IS with us. In trouble, in the dark, in our mourning, “I will rescue her, I will protect her,” God says.   I am still sad. I am still walking in (faithful) sloth.  And I am rescued.  Dear friends in the dark, allow yourself to be sad, to be slow, to be rescued as well. 

Supermoon Tides, Giant Fish,and Where Does Sadness Go?

High high tides this week, bringing storm and kelp, sweeping beaches clean, dumping the detritis in all our nets. The supermoon added extra pull on our already massive tidal range of 26 feet. Meaning we live in two worlds. This one:

And this one six hours later.

     The swelling waters brought a fish through my doors the same day. A big fish, a 30 pound king salmon. 

Such fullness! Such a feast! Until I filleted it down to its spine. Nothing left but bones and death. 

      Such has been my week. These times come to us all. High full tides, a bounteous salmon---then a sucking minus tide, a gutted fish, an empty plate.  Has your week been like this as well? I confess it is partly my reading. I am reading Shannon Huffman Polson’s just-released memoir North of Hope.

(Shannon was my student in Seattle Pacific University’s Master of Fine Arts program.) I knew about this story several years ago, when we worked together, but reading it again, this time in excruciating and haunting detail, I was devastated afresh.  Shannon lost her father and stepmother to a rogue bear in the Alaskan Arctic wilderness.  I grieved again and again with her for the magnitude and the manner of her loss----and I had my own grieving to do as well . . .  the loss of my own father, who gave me nothing and took nothing when he died. (

I am thinking of him all this week as I proof my next book, Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers.) 

         We all contain such hollow spaces and empty moments.  Times of such aloneness, when we should have been loved but weren’t, when someone who should have taught us, didn’t. When someone who should have given us words to guide us, didn’t.  When someone who should still be with us, isn’t.  And when someone we really need to help, 

j u s t   c a n n o t   h e l p   u s.  He cannot. She cannot.      

       And the earth spins and tilts and the moon pulls and the ocean rises toward it, and the tides flood the beach, stretching our nets first one way, then another. We strain all the harder at lines so taut we can hardly lift them.  And maybe we cry, salt water into salt water.  Maybe we feel sorry for ourselves. And its all right that we do. God, who knows just what has come to us, what he has given us, is sorry too.  

    When sadness comes, let it be.  At least for awhile.  Moses did. He dared to write—and God dared to inspire him to write these dark words:

All our days pass away under your wrath;

    we finish our years with a moan.

 Our days may come to seventy years,

    or eighty, if our strength endures;

yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,

    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

We fly away------but not yet.  Here in the now there is still the other. The water will not stop moving. If we look, we can find good  and goodness around us to count and name: blessing and offering and surprise and beauty  and love. This is my week too: 

But I don’t send you these photos of my blessings as some sort of consolation to either of us. Photos from my island won’t fix anything. I know it’s not enough.  Nor is it enough for me to live here in the midst of this beauty and wildness.  Toward the end of her book, Polson quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson:

 “The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship”

. Polson does indeed give us worship in her remarkable book. I have learned the same.  

Toward the end of Moses’ psalm, he asks this of God:


May your deeds be shown to your servants,

    your splendor to their children."

If you see it here in these tiny photos taken by a simple, watching  woman just learning to see---then I count this one more blessing in a troubled week. 

Here, then, is where sadness goes, 

lost i


His deeds,

His splendor, 

His unfailing love.  

                            W o r s h i p.