“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”
Outrunning the darkness. Quite often my spiritual trek feels like I’m just keeping a few steps ahead of the darkness chasing after me. Regardless of my belief concerning the hereafter, this journey being undertaken, this search which has transformed life not only brings an awesome, reverential awareness of the brilliance of deity, it also brings a heightened consciousness of the ominous, surrounding clouds.
Of course, much of the darkness is external. The injustices which governments inflict upon its citizens, the heresies which religions claim as inerrant doctrine, the social breakdown leading to intolerance and bigotry all have a part in darkening my world.
Fortunately, we Americans still have the privilege and duty to protest publicly on various forums the actions which we believe are inconsistent with whom we are as a nation. We can talk, write, and rally until the cows come home sometimes with favorable results but more often with nothing more than hoarse voices and tired feet to show for our efforts. It’s our right and our duty to stand up against what we see as social injustice.
But in the end summation, most of that darkness is beyond my control. I have learned to recognize it, battle it, and then retreat to my quiet space to regroup, thereby protecting my soul from the hatred and savagery which darkness inflicts. A good heart can sour quickly under an assault by the world’s horrors if the inner sanctum is not honored and cherished.
St. Francis of Assisi addressed another darkness, that which is indwelling, in his popular prayer:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where injury, pardon; where doubt, faith; where despair, hope; where darkness, light; where sadness, joy…….”
These words did not strike me as particularly inspirational until I applied the directives not as an outward display of compassion to others, but as an inward act of soul consolation. Today, when I repeat these words, I am seeking comfort for my ravaged soul within. It is the inner me which needs healing from the onslaught of the world’s darkness.
Equally disheartening as the dark powers and principalities of the world are the inherent human conditions known as the seven deadly sins, the “cardinal” sins:
wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony
Name them sins or call them character defects, the result of these conditions, when allowed to fester within, are devastating. Take your pick. Which one is your favorite? Each one, if entertained in excess, will bring a threatening cloud over a trekker’s world in a heartbeat. Running one or two steps ahead of this internal darkness can be a daunting marathon.
We trekkers and survivors in recovery are undeservedly blessed to have the necessary tools at hand to survive in a world which is broken, violent, and tumultuous. However, we are not infallible. Always we must vigilantly protect that essence within which is who we are as children of the universal Oneness. The spiritual life is a race to outrun the world’s darkness and our internal demons. Reflection, prayer, contemplation, and meditation take us where we can find a safe harbor, a refuge from the raging storms of life.