As a kid I had yellow, footy pajamas that were faded to the color of a manila folder, but whoever handed them down to me did a good thing. Oh, to have another pair, size M.
It was always a little tough getting the bottoms on after getting out of the bathtub, but when I was visiting my granddad in Poteau, Oklahoma, I could count on his help. Not that he was so intent on helping me get my pajamas on, it's just that we couldn't sit down to our before-bed cornbread and milk until I was dressed for bed.
While Granddad, my brother, and I sat at the Formica-topped table and ate our bedtime snack, Mom was getting the bed ready. Mason slept like a West Texas windmill, and the only hope of a decent night's sleep was to roll a quilt up lengthways and put it down the middle of the bed under the covers. I can still feel that quilt against my back as I snuggled against it. Mom would tuck the covers under the mattress, turn out the light, and close the door.
Granddad Hoyle lived on ten acres at the foot of "Granddaddy's Mountain"-- you know, the one the bear went over to see what he could see. When the lights were turned out at Granddad's, I'm here to tell you it got dark! How dark was it? So dark that I couldn't see my brother, eighteen inches away, or even my hand in front of my face. But through the darkness, on the other side of the door, I could hear Dad and Granddad talking.
In the summer time, when I'd ride the bus to Poteau by myself, the dark room was even darker ... or so it seemed. Mason wasn't beside me, the quilt wasn't rolled up at my back, the covers weren't tucked in as tight, and I couldn't hear my Granddad talking. But I knew he was there, just on the other side of the darkness-- he'd told me so, and he'd never left me before.
Although the darkness tempted me to bail out of bed, Granddad's steel-blue eyes had conveyed to me that in bed, in the dark, was the best place for me to be until morning. And besides, what evil could befall me? Just moments earlier, sitting out in the side yard, Granddad told stories of scaring off catamounts (mountain lions), catching foxes in the hen house, and killing rattlesnakes under the carport. All was well. The only difference between the daylight of tomorrow and the darkness enveloping the bedroom was that I couldn't see. But that didn't alter the fact that I was secure.
As you know so well, darkness isn't limited to the front bedroom at Granddaddy's house. Life is full of dark times: when questions multiply like rabbits and answers are few and far between, emotions kick the pegs of their limitations and anguish occupies the front row in your mind's theater. Such stress passes its affect to the body, and sleepless nights collaborate with oppressive days, gauntness replaces the sparkle that was in your eye, frustration oozes out from under fraying edges.
To add to this dark plot, it often seems as though God in these very times has gone on an extended trip to the outer sectors of the universe and is unavailable for comment. At a time when life is driving us deeper into the darkness and our inclination is to cry out to the Lord more fervently, surely He should be more available.
Darkness seems to breed deeper darkness and vulnerability to Satan's schemes is heightened significantly. The old adage, "When it rains, it pours," certainly seems to apply. And so you hunker down to wait out God's extended trip, try to resist the temptation to run, and wish for a sense of security in the darkness.
Perhaps the deepest, darkest book of the Bible is Job. Over thirty times Job mentions or references darkness. That's over 40% of the Old Testament references to darkness, all contained in one man's book. And you say, "I identify! You ought to read my journal. If I could bring myself to write a book, it would rival Job's." Like Job, while sitting in the midst of insidious, black, all-pervasive darkness, you too are calling out for a God that seemingly doesn't answer.
And where is God? Is darkness truly His absence, or is there more to darkness than meets the eye? That's next in the continuation of "How Dark is the Dark?"