Even in the dark
With “falling back” to standard time from Daylight Savings Time, and perhaps with the sleep disruptions of advancing age, I find myself more often walking through our home in the dark. Of course, I have some friends and colleagues who, through the years, have suggested that I walk around in the dark quite a bit! But I mean this literally — after sunset and through the night. In some ways, it’s remarkable that I can do so rather easily.
I recall our first encounter with this house on our trip to Davenport in 2019. We entered through the back door with our real estate agent and were pretty quickly quite confused. Rooms didn’t seem to line up neatly. We went different directions at one point and literally called to one another to try to get back together. The next evening in Indiana, where we stopped overnight as we made on our way back to Pennsylvania, I sat up quite late trying to draw a floor plan of the house. It was still pretty confusing.
Once we moved in, I finally was able to figure out three circles that could define traffic patterns through different sections of the house (It’s not really all that big!). For months, each time I needed to move from one section to another, I would call up my mental three-circle map and take a moment to figure out which route seemed best. Recently, I realized that the floor plan and the mental map have both faded into old memories. I finally just go where I want, without bumping into walls or finding myself stymied – even in the dark.
In my life of faith, a similar process developed over time. At first, I had pieces, each of which seemed somewhat familiar in itself, but I couldn’t quite see how they all fit together. In time, with more experience and some explicit learning, several patterns emerged that became dependable. I could use them to navigate moments of doubt and joy, curiosity and confusion, celebration, meditation, and relationship. As I live and learn more in my faith life, I become more adept at walking it without those patterns, responding more spontaneously and confidently to the urgings of the spirit and the needs of others in my community.
Still, there are times when I need to be able to call out to someone else who I know is on the journey with me. None of us can discern the path – even of our own faith – all by ourselves. Others can help us with our bearings, indicate from their experience helpful routes and pitfalls to avoid, and just reassure that we are not alone. It’s useful to keep the memories of the older patterns handy, too. When I haven’t been down a particular spiritual path in a while, I appreciate the support that a pattern offers, like a good trail map. They can also make worthwhile gifts to others who are starting on a similar path, finding their own way toward a more personal, confident faith.
I am still discovering things about the house, sometimes in the daylight and sometimes in the dark. It seems to be a journey of learning and familiarization that will go on for quite some time. Certainly that’s true with faith, and it is a joyous experience to undertake the faith journey in company with others, in worship and learning and service and bearing witness, all in mutual encouragement and support.
-Peter A. Pettit, teaching pastor