TIM MADIGAN: Anything Mentionable — The Astringent Healing Power Of That Light

Thank you for the warm welcome in my return to the blogosphere a week or two ago. The first blog in more than a year was a bit difficult to put out there because it largely concerned my own dark side, and who wants to go around publicizing that. (Click here if you missed it.) But I think most of us have come to realize that we all have them, dark sides, that is, and the more we can acknowledge that, the better.

I was particularly touched by two replies to what I wrote. One was from a person who makes her living by helping other people laugh.

“This last one made me realize something about understanding the inner shadows,” she wrote. “I have a lot of people that tell me, ‘Thank you for reminding me not to take life so seriously.’ I even had a family member once tell me, ‘You need to take life more seriously.’ It was that point when I realized I fooled a lot of people. In reality, I am the one who needs to lighten up.”

The blog was also beautifully referenced in the Palm Sunday sermon of my friend, Rev. Charles Valenti-Hein at his Presbyterian church in Storm Lake, Iowa.

“Here’s the hard part,” Charles told his congregation that day. “There is nothing in the Easter proclamation that we will shout out next week that can be understood unless you walk with Jesus into that terrifying, humiliating, shameful valley of the shadow of death. To find your way in to the mind of Christ, you have to follow him. And that path is not just a yellow brick road with poppies and sunflowers and chirping birds. If so, it really could not save us because really, who needs to be saved from that? It’s only as we face the darkness — the darkness in our world, in our midst, maybe most especially in ourselves, that we can begin to see the light.

“There’s a man I met 10 years ago. He’s a writer whose life was changed by a more or less chance encounter with Mister Rogers. Tim Madigan is his name, and he came to Appleton and shared a worship service with us, and now and then, he drifts back on to my radar screen.

“He posted a link to his blog on Facebook last week, and it was a riff on a piece written by Parker Palmer. Palmer wrote, ‘Coming to terms with the soul-truth of who I am — of my complex and often confusing mix of darkness and light — has required my ego to shrivel up.’ And what Tim helped me to see this week, as I thought of the blinding flashes of light and dark that mark the journey of this week of our Lord’s Passion, is that both have something to teach us.

“Yeah, it’s messy, and sometimes ugly, and it can really hurt, but if we just stay on the sunny side of the street, the astringent healing power of that light can never get where it needs to get in our souls. It’s maybe a little long, but for me it was a good reminder, as I prepare to walk this way of the cross — this scandalous path — once more this year.”

Then Charles quoted this from my blog.

“I’ve … spent a good bit of time these last several months — with the companionship of many trusted others — getting better acquainted with my dark side. It’s broader and deeper than I had previously known. The anger, the fear, the self-centeredness, the arrogance and judgment of others. Yet such self-reckoning is an exercise I strongly recommend, painful as it might be. I think our lives make a little more sense when we better understand the shadows we all carry within. We’re less likely to be blindsided by them, for one thing. And understanding the universal shadow might inspire deeper compassion for others in our seething world.

“So I’m no longer so ashamed of or frightened by my own inner darkness. Fred Rogers once told me, ‘There is a loving mystery at the heart of the universe that yearns to be expressed.’ I’ve come to believe that the Loving Mystery to which he refers lives in both the darkness and the light. In fact, I believe that the Loving Mystery IS both the darkness and the light.”

Charles again.

“Maybe that’s what this whole confusing journey from Palm Sunday, through the Upper room, to cross and tomb is all about — humbling ourselves to that Loving Mystery, composed of darkness and light. Don’t diminish the difficulty. Step into it! What you will find, I believe, is that God is there, too.

“Let us pray.”

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