If there is one concept that runs through all Quaker thought, it is "the Light." We hold each other in the Light; we wait for the Light; we follow the leadings of the Light. Through all the dark years of persecution and imprisonment in the 1600s, the Light protected Friends from despair and bitterness.
George Fox recounts in his journal, written during those years, "I saw, also, that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness."
That's a compelling image, two oceans. An ocean is vast, overwhelming, unstoppable, and the darkness may seem that way -- but then too, so is the Light.
Darkness is often portrayed as negative, to be avoided or overcome. But that may not always be true. We need the darkness, too. All of life requires both the dark and the light.
I was one of those fortunate kids who was never afraid of the dark. When I was a young teenager, I liked to sneak out at night in the summer and run through the back roads by my house. We lived in a rural area, with lots of woods and no traffic. It never occurred to me to be afraid. The dark was comforting, supportive, friendly. It still is.
Winter is a time of short days and long nights, of dark days when the sun seems to have abandoned us. But wonderful, mysterious things are happening in that darkness! Seeds are gathering their strength underground, baby creatures are ripening in wombs, the earth is tilting ever so slightly on its axis. The natural world proves over and over that the cycle will complete, the sun will return, the Light will be with us once again. While it is taking a nap, resting, it is actually growing stronger, out of sight.
But what of the metaphorical darkness, the dark night of the soul? Might that be a time when we are growing as well, quietly, in the depths, out of sight? Perhaps it is like the phases of the moon -- when it disappears and leaves us in the darkness of the night, we know it, too, will return in its cycle.
Much of the world seems to be in darkness now -- war, natural disasters, mass shootings, pandemic disease -- but I looked out my kitchen window this morning and saw the glorious sunrise, and smiled. The entire eastern sky was painted in orange, red, pink, and all shades between. It revived my spirit. Beauty has a way of doing that.
Perhaps the world is birthing something new and wondrous, underground, where we can't see it. I don't know what that world will look like or what my place in it will be, but I'm confident that it will be Light, not dark. The ocean of Light will overcome. The Light will return; the cycle will repeat. I trust the Universe to right itself, however long it takes.
Maya Porter is a member of the Fayetteville Friends Meeting (Quaker). Her book "Recognized in Flight: A Memoir" is available on Amazon. Email her at email@example.com.