“Yahweh dwelled in a dark cloud over Mount Sinai and thundered when he spoke. Like the Israelites, we too may feel he is unapproachable—too holy for us to draw near him. There is a darkness that still seems to linger in our minds as we reach out toward him, desperate to know him, to be intimate with him.”
It’s easy for me to associate God and his presence with light.
When I talk to God, I envision myself sitting on a white floor, in a space filled with the brightest, warmest light. But the reality is that God’s voice can’t be boxed in to this specific dream of mine. I was intrigued reading chapter 1 of Solitude in Solitude & Contemplation because of the dark imagery that the author evoked and the passages of the Bible tell of. Instead of dwelling over Mount Sinai in a light sunbeam with a gentle voice, he boomed with a roaring thunder and hung over the mountain in a heavy, thick cloud. Envisioning God speaking in such dark, violent terms is unnerving to me. Being a sensitive person, I find myself drawn to a God who wraps me in his loving embrace and holds me like a treasured flower, not boom at me with forceful and intimidating power.
Dealing with the Thought of a Dark God
While a large part of me is nervous and bewildered by this darkness through which God speaks, part of me feels excitement at this mode of communication. God is powerful. He is a lion, ruling over the world with graceful, truthful judgment. He isn’t a doe-eyed fluff-ball that could be swallowed up by sin or darkness. He triumphs with ease and with a mighty, firm hand.
The reality is that God can never be boxed in by my ideas of him. In extremely complex and unfathomable ways, my Shepherd holds both gentle and tough qualities that are constantly woven together.
If I’m being honest, what makes these visions of God converge in my mind is also my all-encompassing paralysis with the idea of sitting quietly, face-to-face with God.
Entering into the Holy Darkness
I would absolutely characterize myself as an introvert. I’ve always been more inclined to being by myself or with smaller groups of people. I don’t do well socially in environments with many people or where I’m the center of attention. But while I enjoy sitting peacefully and quietly by myself in nature or in my home, sitting with God is something I truly struggle with. I seem to mentally thrash around during my set-aside moments to be alone with God. It is as though a dark, impenetrable mist of confusion, ambiguity, and distance falls over me. I think a large part of this is because God’s presence does feel so unattainable and distant at times, as the quote in the beginning touched on.
“This whisper is difficult to hear in the din of our culture and religious life. It is also frightening even to try to listen for it, because to do so we must… enter the dark cave from whence the whisper emerges. That means stepping into mystery” (“Listening for the Whisper,” Mark Galli in the Everyday Matters Bible for Women).
Like many of us, I think I’m intimidated by things beyond my reach that I will never fully understand. It’s difficult to entrust yourself completely to anything that is hidden from view. But still, God calls us to trust in him with our hearts, minds, strength—everything. And this is done through moments of solitude where we can commune with him one-on-one.
In the beginning of the chapter, the author gives the reasonable idea that to even sit for a mere five minutes in God’s presence is revolutionary. It’s certainly better than nothing. With this in mind, I’m going to commit to sitting in silence and solitude for five minutes this week, entering into that misty, dark cave and try to discern God’s whisper.
Will you join me?