I went camping the weekend of my birthday. Being away in the woods is sometimes just what the doctor ordered – it’s like a reset button for my brain. After hiking in and eating our dinner, my friend and I read this, from one of my favorite Dietrich Bonhoeffer books, Life Together:
“What do we today, who no longer have any fear or awe of night, know of the great joy that our forefathers and the early Christians felt every morning at the return of light? … To learn again something of the praise and adoration that is due the triune God at break of day, God the Father and Creator, who has preserved our life through the dark night and wakened us to a new day, God the Son and Savior, who conquered death and hell for us and dwells in our midst as victor, God the Holy Spirit, who pours the bright gleam of Gods word into our hearts at the dawn of day, driving away all darkness and sin and teaching us to pray aright.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I loved it. We were lying there in the dark by our small fire. We were staring up at deep blackness, stars slowing beginning to peep out one by one. We had a long time to go (thank yoouu daylight savings time..) before the sun would come back up and we would have any real source of light. So of course this quote hit especially hard. Night is a time of waiting for the break of day. Darkness is a time of yearning for the light. Every morning there is a reminder of the Lord, and his constancy, faithfulness, and sustaining power. In that inky blackness it was easy to imagine myself waiting expectantly for the daylight, helpless without it, and rejoicing and praising the Lord when it arrived. And sure enough, the next morning came and I poked my head out of that tent and rejoiced in the sunlight and praised the Lord for the break of day. I saw the daylight and thought of my Savior, thanks to the good reminder from Dietrich the night before.
The very next day I woke up in my own bed, not in a tent. That morning I woke up and didn’t rejoice in the break of day. I didn’t praise God for the dawn, but it was more than that. It wasn’t just that I didn’t rejoice in the break of day, but I actually wished for the night.
Sometimes our disordered souls have a penchant for the dark, don’t they?
How do I rejoice in the break of day when I wish it was still night?
How do I love the light when I want it to still be dark?
What do I do when joy is so much work?
I don’t have an answer to this, although I think part of it lies in recounting to ourselves stories of how the Lord has already, to take the words of Bonhoeffer, “preserved our life through the dark night and wakened us to a new day.” I can look back on dark months of life and see how the Lord’s light broke through. I’m not taking someone else’s word for it – I’ve know the sweetness and power of Jesus. Part of the answer also lies in remembering He “who conquered death and hell for us and dwells in our midst as victor.” I serve a God with a track record of light and faithfulness who also dwells with me and already has the victory. The darkness is defeated.
I live in the Psalms, and frequently return to Psalm 42 and 43. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” -Psalm 43:5
Listen up, Soul. I will praise Him again.
The break of day is a daily, physical reminder of how He has carried us through the night, but also of the Savior who bought me, wakens my sleepy soul, and whose light is “driving away all darkness and sin” in my life.