A positive path for spiritual living

Growing Through the Darkness by Rev. Ray Nelson

Sat, 04/04/2020 - 3:46pm -- ccousineau


          These are interesting times we are living through. There is a level of anxiety and fear in many that are unlike anything I have ever experienced. Our ministers, leaders, and Centers are being forced to adapt and respond to conditions never before experienced. This unprecedented time is providing new opportunities and new challenges. Our regional board and staff are trying to communicate new best practices and tools to assist Unity centers and ministers as they traverse this uncharted territory. Rev Greg Coles, our Regional Rep, is providing monthly dialog calls for all to participate and share ideas. Through our Facebook page and website, we are encouraging our leaders to share ideas. We continue to provide links to UWM and its expanding toolbox of resources. All this is to remind us that we are all in this together and to remind us of our oneness and Unity. If we work and collaborate together, we will grow and become stronger through the experience.

          I am going to focus my remarks in a different, though parallel direction for the remainder of the piece. Recently I went through what can only be described as a dark night of the soul. The interesting thing about a dark night, at least for me, is you don’t know you are in it until you are on the way out. The dark night as described by Saint John of the Cross is a transformative and life-changing event. It is not to be sought, only entered into as the result of our deep spiritual commitment and disciplines. No one would willingly enter into the time of darkness, but if one finds oneself in the darkness the potential for paradigm-shifting experience is present.

          In a dark night, again at least in my experience, everything that I thought I knew was challenged. My faith and trust in myself, others and God were brought into question. The very foundations of my life and purpose was threatened. Everything was stripped away including God until in the end I was left raw, vulnerable, and alone. This did not happen at once but was a slow descent into an inner hell in which I had, to survive, confront myself and who I said I was. Meister Eckhart once said (I paraphrase here) it is time to be stripped of everything including God, the beliefs and myths of God that may have sustained you but no longer worked until the only thing left is God. God beyond the concepts and ideas. The presence and the power that is ever-present and beyond the rational mind's ability to understand or comprehend is all that remains.

          I once said to the interview team in one of my L&O interviews that I would not wish my experiences on another person, the pain and suffering I endured and the pain and suffering I put others I loved through, but I would not change them. It was because of the experiences I had most often put myself through in my ignorance, that I am who I am today. I am able to empathize with a compassionate heart because I have experienced the pain others are going through. The dark night is another of those experiences I would not wish on another soul but would not trade the experience.

          I began to emerge from the darkness and realized the depths of my depression, debilitating loneliness, and the darkness I had been living in. I had put on a mask only to find I was hiding from myself. Emerging from the darkness I renewed my prayer life, my meditation, and my times of contemplation. I stopped doing for a while and disconnected from the world in order to find myself. At this time, I heard many things. I heard you are supported and loved. I heard let go and trust. The phrase let go and let God took on a completely new meaning. I heard let go I have your back. Even my white stone word for the year was trust and so I did.

          I reached out, slowly at first, to those I thought I knew I could count on. I sought out counsel not to fix me but to help me grow and understand myself better. I began to reengage the world and discovered a newfound passion and desire to serve but unlike the past, it was without the deep ego fulfillment that seemed to color my every action. The dark night had provided me the opportunity to come face to face with who I said I was and truly become that person.

          You may be asking yourself, so what? What does this have to do with me? Here is the point. We are in unprecedented times. Maybe we are in a collective dark night. We are being forced to step away from our routines, the way we do things and confront a new world many of us never imagined we would face. We are being challenged and pulled to respond to our own fears and anxieties while ministering to those who are vulnerable and isolated who look to us for comfort and guidance. Maybe, just maybe, this is the time we use our collective dark night to make the paradigm shift to a new way of being in the world. Maybe this is a time where we truly become Unity relying on each other and collaborating beyond the beliefs and theology to a deeper truth of our oneness. Remember that through it all we are supported and guided to our highest good. For me, it brings me comfort to know God has my back as I step forward into a brave new world.