Amos 4:13 “For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, The God of hosts, is his name.”
As I read this Bible verse, I was all comfortable with Creator God forming mountains, creating the wind, reading our minds, and treading the high places of the earth. But I was surprised when I read that God makes the morning darkness. I mean that is contradictory, right? Morning. Darkness. How do those two words fit together? I looked up what the Hebrew translation is and found that the morning darkness means the dawn obscurity, the liminal space between the night and the morning. The space where it isn’t all dark, but it isn’t all light.
And I can’t help but think about my friends on “life” row who live daily in that space. They know that their execution dates can be set at any moment, but they also know that they are alive now and have to live into as much of the fullness of the day as they possibly can. It can be difficult, at times, to sit in the liminal space with my friends, as I never know which they will choose — will they choose life or will they choose to discuss death? And the truth is that they pick both. They need to process their death while they are living. And they have to process their living while they know they face a certain death.
In seminary and in my Clinical Pastoral Education, we were taught about living in the “already and not yet.” We were told to hold in tension both versus thinking that life was either or. It is both life and death. It is both light and darkness. We can hold two contradictory words and thoughts together in the same space.
That darkness continues to be present when morning has arrived still irks me. I know it is just trying to make a graceful transition, but I’m impatient for it to be morning. I want the light to shine and shine brightly.
My friend on the row recalled the morning of Christ’s crucifixion, when the day turned to night for many hours. He articulated all of the betrayals, the lashings, the beatings that Christ received before he ever made it to the cross. As I listened to him all I could think about was his own morning darkness. His morning darkness is much like Jesus’ — he sadly has had one betrayal after another which has led him to be wrongfully incarcerated now for 26 years.
He has been through so much darkness in his life. Life has gone very dark for him. He lives in his small cell on the row and as he thinks about all the people in his life who have betrayed him or abandoned him, people he trusted and loved. His darkness is compounded by an unjust justice system that is intent on keeping him locked up. Life has gone dark for him as he sits in his cell where he is slowly dying spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I know that he can see Christ from time to time, but there are moments when he is in such darkness he can’t see Jesus right in front of him.
I pray to God that the light of God’s revelation and love would beam on us both. And I thank God that I serve a God who is quite content with sitting with us in the darkness of our lives. Yes, God knows that the sun will rise eventually, but until then, God is happy to sit with us in our morning darkness.