Ever since I was a kid I have despised daylight-saving time. Sleep has always been my friend. I even remember being excited when I learned I was going to be in the afternoon kindergarten class. At the tender age of five, I knew the gift of a slow morning.
My mom, bless her, never made me wake up to an alarm. So for thirteen years she experienced the joy of coaxing me and my angry self out of bed. When I went away to college she was sad to see me go, but also slightly delighted she was no longer needed as my human alarm clock.
These days, as a parent, my loathing of daylight-saving, has only deepened. Losing the hour of sleep is brutal. Insisting to my kids it’s bedtime while the sun is still high in the sky is tiresome (but necessary). Maybe worst of all, is having to get up while the sun is nowhere to be found, the stars can still be seen, and the moon is as bright as ever.
But this past March when, again, we sprung forward, I noticed something the very first morning I awoke to pitch blackness. Though it was still too early to see dawn’s early light, there was a chorus of birds outside my window who didn’t seem to care.
The stars were still twinkling, but the birds were singing. They seemed to have missed the memo announcing the news. IT’S STILL DARK. But no matter, they went on doing what they had always done and announced, what must have seemed to them, just a late in arriving morning.
And in some small way, it made the morning better. I know, they’re just birds. But to me, it signified something bigger. It made me see in a way I hadn’t before the importance of showing up. It made me understand in a way I sometimes miss, that singing your song has meaning—even if the sun doesn’t come up when you think it should, that even if it all takes longer than you think it ought to, you do what you’ve got to do, because you were made for it.
In John 20, the chapter starts by saying, Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb…”
I don’t know if Mary was a morning person. I don’t know if she’d had trouble sleeping that night, distraught over the still fresh reality of her crucified Lord. I don’t know if she went to the tomb on purpose, or just ended up there, hardly cognizant of where her blistered feet were taking her.
But I know she showed up. While it was still dark. And I suspect her unwillingness to leave Jesus while on the cross, and her desire to go to Jesus while in the tomb, had much to do with what Jesus had made her feel in His presence. Safe. Loved. Accepted. Known.
So she went to the tomb of a man dead for three days.
She thought if something was going to have changed the way the past few days had gone, it would have happened already. That it is was later than she thought it should be for the situation to be saved. That it was still dark, and the tease of dawn was far enough away that her circumstances seemed as hopeless as ever.
But like the birds outside my window, she did what she knew to do. She did her own sort of singing, just by being present. Because sometimes all the hope you can muster is simply in doing the only thing you know to do. In spite of it all. In spite of the darkness of day. In spite of the darkness of her soul. She showed up.
And wouldn’t you know? In the darkness, Jesus showed up too. In a way she never could have imagined had she authored the story herself. And in a way she would have missed had she succumbed to fear, exhaustion or desperation. Now, history tells her story.
The dark, literal and figurative, can be challenging to navigate and so dense and encompassing it feels likely to swallow us whole. But sometimes, it’s in the dark where we find meaning we may have otherwise missed. Sometimes when we do what we were made to do, when we simply show up, our hope is realized.
We sing in the dark, because while it was still dark, God showed up. That was Mary’s story. And who knows, in today’s darkness before dawn, in today’s darkness of our hearts, He just might do it again.