Our Place in the Sun

Bob dated himself by quoting a Crosby, Stills & Nash song in his Sunday sermon. I'm going to date myself by quoting from a song, Prince of Darkness, by the Indigo Girls, those mascots of 40-something progressive Christian feminists (or something):

My place is of the sun and

this place is of the dark and

I do not feel the romance,

I do not catch the spark.

By grace my sight grows stronger,

and I will not be a pawn

for the Prince of Darkness any longer.

The lyrics of this song echo one of our lectionary scriptures from yesterday, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, "Concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, 'There is peace and security,' then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness."

While the 1 Thessalonians scripture doesn't speak directly of a "Prince of Darkness" as the song does, many Christians throughout history and today believe in some embodiment of evil, in something or someone called Satan or the devil. A few weeks ago, my writing group was commiserating about stumbling blocks that were piling up for several of us—serious doubts about calling and career direction, feelings of loneliness and isolation, frustrating episodes of other writers' citing our work without attribution. One friend remarked that it almost felt like we were under attack from all these negative forces. For some in the group, the notion that there could be an actual evil being behind this kind of "spiritual warfare" is part of their belief system. Others of us, me included, aren't quite so quick to ascribe problems to an actual evil being.

But all of us can relate to the feeling that one is under attack, even if we don't ascribe that attack to a nameable being. We can all think of times in our lives when we sense that good things, struggling to breathe and grow, are being strangled and held back, while at the same time, bad news of every kind is in plentiful supply. It's why we trot out that cliche about bad things happening in threes. It's why we fall into frustrated blue moods when it feels that everything we touch goes bad, that everything is just a big old mess.

Balancing Sunlight from Flickr via Wylio © 2009 Pink Sherbet Photography, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I've always loved the song The Prince of Darkness because it, like the 1 Thessalonians scripture, reminds me where to keep my focus. We know that living a life devoted to God and the ways of Jesus does not inoculate us from pain and struggle. If anything, living a Christian life forces us to engage with difficult questions and push back against common cultural assumptions, sometimes increasing our struggles and difficulties. Both the song and the scripture, though, remind us that even if we don't have a choice about our circumstances or our struggles, we have a choice about our focus and our very identity. We can choose to leave the place that is "of the dark" (a place where growth is stifled, where cruelty flourishes, or where negativity reigns) to inhabit a place that is "of the sun." The place "of the sun" is our place, the place we belong, for we are children of light and day.

So what are the things that make us feel that we're inhabiting a place of darkness? A place of darkness can be work that feels meaningless, a relationship that has become stagnant or mean, an addiction to substances or destructive behaviors, fear that keeps us from trying anything new even when old patterns and choices are making us miserable, or a physical or mental illness that disconnects us from the people, activities, and things we love. When we remember our true identity as children of light and day, we become inspired to figure out how to get back to that place of the sun—our true home. That might mean finding new work or just refocusing on what made us choose this work to begin with; saying hard things like "I'm sorry," or "We need help," to those we love; taking steps toward recovering from addiction; doing something new in spite of fear; seeking treatment for the illness or figuring out accommodations that allow us to still do what we love in spite of it.

When we do these hard, necessary things, we're not simply solving our problems. We are remembering who we are—children of light and day—as well as whose we are. We are remembering that when God created this world, God called it "good," and that goes for us too.

Ellen Painter Dollar is a professional writer and member of St. James’s Episcopal Church. She blogs for St. James’s every Monday, offering reflections on current events, family life, and parish life.

Ellen Painter Dollar

Ellen Painter Dollar is the author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (Westminster John Knox, 2012). Her articles, blog posts, book chapters, and books have been published by the Christian Century, GeneWatch Magazine, the New York Times‘s Motherlode blog, OnFaith,Brain, Child Magazine, the Episcopal Cafe, Christianity Today, the Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) Foundation, Virtual Mentor (the American Medical Association’s online journal of ethics), and more. She blogs about faith, family, disability, and ethics at Patheos.