Sue Monk Kidd: Incubation in Darkness
“Today (August 12) is my birthday. It makes me think of the new life I’m incubating and the Birth-day still to come. Today I’ll talk to myself. I’ll say, ‘Accept life—the places it bleeds and the places it smiles. That’s your most holy and human task. Gather up the pain and the questions and hold them like a child on your lap. Have faith in God, in the movement of your soul. Accept what is. Accept the dark. It’s okay. Just be true.’” —Sue Monk Kidd, “A Journal Entry” in When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions (HarperOne, 1992).
Today we continue to share stories from author Sue Monk Kidd. I found two copies of her book, When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions, unread in my home library. When I saw the book on the list for my spiritual direction studies at the Haden Institute, I took that as a sign to read it. I still remember the first time I met Sue Monk Kidd. She was on a tour for her book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. I took all of my female partners in my medical group and my daughter to hear her. One of my partners cried the entire time and bought several books.
Kidd is as amazing a speaker as she is a writer. She reminds us of Marion Woodman’s writings about creative suffering in the dark. Creative suffering burns clean, as opposed to neurotic suffering, which creates more soot. Creative suffering “easters” us or transforms us, chooses a new way, owns our shadow, heals our wounds—as opposed to neurotic or self-pitying suffering, which is untransforming and leads to despair. Kidd continues to tell us that pain may not kill us but running from it might.
At a retreat she led at Kanuga conference center she described a healing exercise in which everyone placed on the altar cut-up scraps of colored paper representing wounds and pain from their lives—offering them up, turning them over instead of pushing them down, trying to escape from them.
She reminds us that the most significant events in Jesus’ life occurred in darkness: birth, arrest, death, resurrection. As tiny bits of light come out in our lives, we begin eastering—much like the lighting of the Paschal candle at the Easter Vigil. This is a great image for me, as the deacon usually carries the Paschal candle, saying “the light of Christ” three times before singing the Exsultet, praising the light. The Paschal candle we use is real wax and for some reason is always very difficult to extinguish!
Kidd describes how our addictions keep us unaware of what is going on inside of us as well as outside of us. This reminds me that when I am living in my addiction, I am denying the harm to my body and soul and heart that comes from wearing my many false selves. Twenty-eight years ago, when I was introduced to a twelve-step program, I got my voice back; but the recovery in the darkness of dealing with the tensions of all the false selves is still part of my recovery as I try to live the steps. I experience more and more easterings or resurrection; but it is still hard work. When the true self emerges, there is delight in life. Gratitude is what living in the true self brings. God becomes our playmate and we find our inner child.
Kidd writes about our accelerated, instant, quick “fast-food” society. I remember once talking to a ten-year-old about playing chess, and her response was, “It takes too long.”
Kidd reminds us of our desire for shortcut religion as well, looking for what Bonhoeffer called cheap grace, “Long on butterflies but short on cocoons.”
I go down to our den this afternoon and find my husband and our almost thirteen-year-old grandson quietly playing chess. I feel hope.
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