Learning to Walk in the Dark

Barbara Brown Taylor is one of my favourite authors, so I was pumped to like this book. And I did like it, although I felt at times she wasn’t getting to the heart of things as quickly or as clearly as I’ve come to expect from her. At times I felt like I was getting her draft notes — some personal reflections followed by some insights from other authors. It felt a bit undigested.

Then, the obvious: to talk about darkness as a cultural construct and to name race only in passing feels naive at best and fearful at worst. Which is disappointing, because part of what I love about BBT is her willingness to enter the dark and difficult places and say something that rings true for me. So to name skin colour and blindness as two areas with a lot of cultural construction and then to explore blindness as personally as she could but not race — that disappointed me. Because if there is one area where I would like some help (and where I think we white religious people could use some help), it’s in matters of race, racism and anti-racism.

Now for the best part. More than anyone else I know, BBT can tell a story in such a way that I experience her not knowing. She can take me to those moments in my life when I wasn’t sure where I would end up, or what the outcome would be. Moments when I was wrestling with some force I did not understand. This is where real growth happens, and its hard to convey because once we’ve come through it, everything can seem obvious.

So even though I look forward to reading what she will write when she’s spent more time with this topic and started to grapple with cultural meanings attached to skin colour, this is worth reading for the experience of walking in the dark — a reminder of what authentic living feels like.

I am also grateful for the many the references which will expand my own reading list — Miriam Greenspan’s Healing Through the Dark Emotions and to Gerald May’s book on John of the Cross are both now at the top of my list.



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