Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Vision and Darkness, from Oswald Chambers

"..An horror of great darkness fell upon him" Genesis 15:12

"Whenever God gives a vision to a saint, He puts him as it were, in the shadow of his hand, and the saint's duty is to be still and listen. There is a darkness which comes from excess of light, and then is the time to listen. Genesis 16 is a good illustration of listening to good advice when it is dark, instead of waiting for God to send the light. When God gives a vision and darkness follows, wait. God will make you in accordance with the vision He has given you if you will wait His time. Never try and help God fulfill his word. Abraham went through 13 years of silence, but in those years his self-sufficiency was destroyed; there was no possibility left of relying on common-sense ways. Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not displeasure. Never pump up joy and confidence, but stay upon God. (Isaiah 50:10-11)

Have I any confidence in the flesh? Or have I got beyond all confidence in myself and in men and women of God; in books and prayers and ecstaties; and is my confidence placed in God himself, not his blessings? 'I am the almighty God'--El Shaddai, the Father-Mother God. The one thing for which we are all being disciplined it to know that God is real.
" O. Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.

The "be still and listen" seems very Quakerly, as do images of darkness and light. But this passage dwells on finding God in the darkness. Do we Quakers rely too much on the "light?" What about "listening to good advice when it is dark, instead of waiting for God to send you the light?" What does this mean to you?

4 comments:

Hystery said...

Darkness is very important to me. I never wanted it to be, but what I wanted seems to have been beside the point. Here's a post I wrote on this topic.

Plainly Pagan

Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Your first quoted paragraph ends with a citation of Isaiah 50:10-11. But although Isaiah 50:10-11 talks about times of darkness, it does not say that the darkness “comes from an excess of light.” I have no idea where Chambers gets that idea!

In the Bible, “be still and listen” is a variant form of the teaching to “wait upon YHWH”, and in one form or another it shows up repeatedly: thus, Psalms 46:10 and 62:5-6, and also (quite pertinently to this present discussion) Psalm 130:5-6, Isaiah 8:17 and Hebrews 9:28. Friends found these passages and made much of them, but so did quite a few contemplatives in other branches of christendom, and I don’t think it need surprise us that Oswald has done the same.

“Listening to good advice when it is dark, instead of waiting for God to send you the light”, seems to me to be what Isaiah 50:11 condemns when it speaks of people “who kindle a fire ... [and] walk in the light of [that] fire and the sparks [they themselves] have kindled.” Isaiah, of course, prophesies that such people will wind up “ly[ing] down in torment.” And this is only one of many passages in the Bible where we see the following of our own merely human wisdom condemned.

I personally don’t think Friends rely too much on the Light, but I think that many Friends do misunderstand what the Light is, so that they wind up relying on something else instead.

In the Bible, and in early Friends’ thinking, the Light is that which illuminates the moral dimension of things (the dimension of good versus bad, right versus wrong, healing versus hurtful, toward-God versus away-from-God) so that we can perceive it. When we find God in the darkness of isolation-from-Him and not-seeing-how-to-proceed, we find Him as Light, and more specifically as that moral illumination by which the devices, subterfuges, and deceptions of the Enemy are laid bare, so that we can see how to move forward. It is in this sense that John says, in the beautiful prologue to his Gospel, that “the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Diane said...

Dear Hystery and Marshall,

Thanks for the comments. I found this OC passage perplexing and felt I should put it out there.

Hystery,

Orthodox Christian meets Pagan--I keep meeting and loving Pagans, especially when I am walking most closely in the faith. I remember that love is the strongest force in the universe, binding us all together. :)

Roger said...

Marshall's comment made me think of Langston Hughes' short memoir of his conversion experience when he was 12 years old ("Salvation".

Hughes says that "My aunt told me that when you were saved you saw a light, and something happened to you inside!" He goes to meeting but he never does "see the light." and ends up being saved as a way to placate his aunt. He chooses his aunt over his personal integrity.