Where I Have Been

Darkness    In darkness and in light we are made.

But first, there was darkness before the wind of God’s spirit brought light. And each night, we are reminded that darkness is as much a part of life as is the light of our daytime lives. We receive equal doses of both.

So, I have been in darkness these past 12 months since my last posting: a period of gestation, of soul-searching, of existential wrestling with unseen angels. There has been light too; but in my soon to be sixty-second year, I am learning to treat darkness with more respect, and at times, I can even befriend the dark.

As children, we loved a “camp-out” under the stars. Just a few yards beyond our own backyard, we took our sleeping bags and flashlights, our comic books and playing cards, and loved the night. We loved the stars above and the stories we read in the night sky, it’s images and characters imagined as real, and the games we played in the night. With darkness, we felt a sense of freedom, a taste of trust in the natural world, and a certain camaraderie with our childhood buddies and friends.

When darkness comes unbidden — through some present suffering, or illness, or of simply feeling lost in the middle of our forward progress — it’s not such a chummy sensation. It may feel more like shame or guilt or disorientation. We want a way out, but feel stymied. Much like the time when I considered the possibility of divorce: I could not find a way up and out towards the light, so I decided the only logical alternative was the way down, deeper into the darkness. And that was how I found hope.

We are fascinated with darkness, and we fear it too. In Jung’s way of thinking, darkness is archetypal. Darkness is a spiritual reality that manifests throughout our lives in nature, in our relationships, and in our souls. Our efforts to get rid of our personal times of darkness usually result in making things worse. But if we get the hang of it — lighting a candle in the dark, inviting a trusted friend, or just waiting for the lesson our souls need — the darkness gives us gifts we otherwise would miss and be the poorer for missing such blessed offerings.

I have a new office, a new stage in my career as a therapist of soul, a new community, and a new home I share with my wife, Sarah, and dog, Theo. It’s a very good thing. Without the darkness, however, I never would have known what my soul was drawing me towards.

THE ROAD

All is darkness
And distant drumming,
Walking along slowly
With shadows only as guides.
How is it that I am here?
Where am I going?
How can a dark road feel so much like –
Home.

Dark faces move
Zombie-like.
Do they mean me harm?
Are they really parts of me?
Or am I actually their creation?
From somewhere I feel a dare:
Join hands with these Others.
Jesus! These least of these?
Couldn’t I, instead, just run?

Come now.
We can do this.
In larger numbers we’ll go.
Courage!
The drumming growing louder.
Fire!
And Dancing!
And singing –
See it now!

A wrong road made
Right
By love and grace
And risk.
We howl our tender mercies
As we claim their new light.
Roads that seemed right go
Wrong
When we forget to celebrate faces in the
Night.

by John B. Rowe

Unlock the Meaning in Your Dreams: Program Helps People Connect to God

John RoweRev. Dr. John Rowe will lead an introductory workshop called “Dreamwork: God’s Forgotten Language” 7-9 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Davidson UMC Chapel, 233 S. Main St., Davidson. The workshop is free and open to everyone, and participants who want to learn more about Dreamwork can enroll in an eight-week study course and join a new Dreamwork small group that will being after the course. To register for the workshop or for information, call the Davidson UMC Counseling Center at 704-892-6135 or email to John Rowe at jrowe@davidsonumc.org. Child care is available if requested by Jan. 20. The idea that God speaks to people through dreams hearkens back to stories in the Bible’s Old Testament that were recorded thousands of years ago.

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In the past decade, the practice of connecting with God through dreams has seen a renaissance, as more people have become interested in analyzing their dreams as a spiritual discipline.

“In the early church, dreams were considered to be one of the best ways that God was trying to tell you about your life,” said John Rowe, director of Davidson United Methodist Church’s counseling center.

For a year, Rowe has led a group of about nine people who meet twice a month to help each other find meaning in their dreams. He said that, within churches in the Southeast, he has seen a growing interest in dreams.

Connecting dreams and spirituality went out of vogue around the fifth century, when dreams became suspect as church leaders began preferring people to learn about God through the teaching of orthodox dogma and belief, Rowe said.

The practice revived in the early 1900s with Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung’s theories of “individuation,” or the idea that people are born with an “authentic self” that people repress in favor of a “public face” they believe will be more acceptable to others.

Accessing dreams connects people with the authentic self in the subconscious, Rowe said, allowing them to understand essential aspects of themselves.

“People who are spiritual assume the authentic self can only come from God, and to know God is to know your authentic self deeply and (to know) the direction God is leading you in your life,” Rowe said.

Rowe’s small group was founded out of a workshop and a subsequent in-depth class that provided participants with tools to help each other interpret their dreams.

Each small group meeting begins with prayer or meditation. The facilitator will sometimes give a short talk or lecture, and then group members share details of recent dreams.

“We use techniques we’ve studied, and we begin working with the dream and give the dream back to the person at the end of our work to see what sort of insights they have from the Dreamwork,” Rowe said.

The group often works on three or four dreams each session. Usually, Rowe said, people find their dreams bewildering and can’t make sense of them.

“I’ve rarely heard of a dream that didn’t sound crazy,” Rowe said. “But as the group begins to work with the tools they’ve been taught to use, it’s incredible that something that can be so crazy-sounding can unfold in a deep and meaningful way for people.”

He encourages people to keep a journal, pen and flashlight by their bed to write down dreams, which often quickly are forgotten. The more people get in the practice of writing down dreams, often the better they remember them, he said.

Rowe said the Dreamwork group is devoted to meeting together, and friendships have formed as people have talked about their dreams and their lives.

“It really is a mixture of fun and is deeply meaningful,” Rowe said. “You can’t talk about a dream usually without a lot of laughter.”

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Marty Minchin is a freelance writer for Lake Norman News. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at martyminchin@gmail.com.