How the Light Gets In

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

- John 1:5

This passage from the gospel of John is one of the most beloved and hope-filled passages in all of scripture. God’s love reaches into the darkest places of human experience, into the shadows of our broken lives and into the caverns of a broken heart. Nothing and no one is beyond God’s redemptive power. Yet we, in pain and suffering, in pride or shame – we are the ones who hide. In a culture that celebrates success and shuns vulnerability, we withdraw to protect ourselves, our image, or our closest relationships.

In 1972, at age 46, my mother died of breast cancer. In those days, we barely spoke of cancer, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t say breast either. My father was left to raise three children, of which I was the youngest at age 11. I can count on one hand the number of times my father spoke of my mother in the remaining 28 years of his life. Grief was taboo.

My mother’s death and, consequently, her life, became “that which must not be named.” Our feelings, our suffering: also taboo. Is it any wonder, according to God’s divine irony, that I became a hospice chaplain, a pastoral counselor and someone passionate about naming what is?! Christ, the Coyote, at work again!

My story may be extreme, but to some extent, this is the message we all get: to lock away our pain, to look good on the outside no matter what’s going on inside. This weekend at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church we have two opportunities to do something countercultural and bring our woundedness into the light of God’s new day. The Caring Ministries team is offering “Hope Amidst Grief,” a symposium on grief recovery, on Saturday, March 3, from 9:00 a.m. to noon in Congregational Hall. On Sunday, March 4 at 11:15 a.m. in Witherspoon Parlor, the Rev. Dr. Debra Sutton will facilitate a conversation entitled “What To Do With #MeToo?” addressing the sensitive issues of sexual harassment and abuse.

Researcher Brené Brown says, "In our culture, we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love." Vulnerability is also the very place where we turn from self-sufficiency and open ourselves to experiences of grace, community, and Holy Presence.

Artwork on the wall in my office bears a famous line by Leonard Cohen: There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in. If you are feeling a little cracked, or completely shattered, maybe these offerings will speak to you. Or maybe you’d like to speak with someone at the Middleton Center. Or maybe, as a community of faith, there’s more that we can do. I do know this: Church is a place where we should be able to speak the truth of our experience and that the act of speaking itself can set us free, especially when it is received by people of faith showing forth the love and compassion as of Christ.