Where the Sun Doesn’t Shine or Does it? A Nod to Advent


Photo by Russell Mothkovich

When I looked at this picture and looked again, I saw a woman with a  cavern gaping inside her, and not one full of crystals that is so hot humans can only visit with oxygen suits on, no not that one. The cave I’m talking about is simple, full of moss, and a trickle of water that carved it, and the smell of rock and dirt. Rock has grown from the ceiling to the floor, the floor to the ceiling. There is no light.

It is the cavern that my aunt talked about when she said “Your need is too great” when my brother died and I was grieving. I had confronted her sister for not taking time to talk to me on the phone, for not making another time, in a letter that was a scream of grief. She felt she needed to rebuke me with the lie, that haunts me like a demon, when I have slipped into darkness, and have sidle up to the Jesus Prayer for survival: Lord be merciful to me a sinner.

If a person’s need were too great, Jesus wouldn’t be separating sheep from goats on whether we give a cup of water to the thirsty. Parker Palmer says that sometimes if we can’t help we can trust the community to step in, to fill the need. This is true. It is something I have seen happen when I could not help. I see now, I see how this is merely my aunt’s comment on herself, that her need was too great to offer even something small, a kind greeting, a note sending love. Being one with this gaping need, I tell you, that a note, a kind word, something that might seem like no big deal, can count for everything.

The cave I’m talking about is a hollow cupped in a mountain, holding space in the middle of rock, the weight so heavy we can’t fathom it bearing down, but still, still the hollow remains, and maybe a trickle of water.

But then can’t that emptiness, that deep insecurity, that place where the sun doesn’t shine, be turned into a good thing? Christians have been saying from the beginning that we must be emptied, poured out, we must take ourselves out of the way, so that God can sweep in, his light shine, from us. Can’t we climb into this emptiness, into its mystery and make something more whole than we are?

My brother used to crawl belly down through caves, his carbide lamp flickering. He invited me once to crawl through a hole barely larger than my hips, to find a big open room on the other side. No, I said. I stayed where I could see the light above and the ladder leading out. But I have crawled through my own tight, dark spaces, a lamp flickering against the rock and I have seen some things.

I think of the woman-at-the-well story, where the teacher comes and sees in a flash she’s there alone, not part of the chattering group of women who come daily to draw water. He sees in her face the several men she’s thumbed through to find that long drink of water that satisfies. He says what he sees with such gentleness she feels known that I imagine was not unlike how I felt when I asked a realtor to look for homes and her first listing, was exactly where we’d want to live. How’d you know me? I asked. This woman too asked the same. She was surprised he’d even speak to her, an ostracized woman from an outsider town.

That hollow deep inside her, he promised would spring and dance with living water, rushing and flooding, and living crystal. All she’d have to do was come and drink.


Here is a blog post by Winn Collier that speaks to this dark season and gave me the courage to post this: http://winncollier.com/groan-first-week-of-advent/. And here is another one by Beth Harrison Hess:http://jasonandkelliwoodford.blogspot.com/2014/11/a-person-i-used-to-be.html. She also wrote about fountains that reminded me, that caves can be fountains: http://t.co/dOnj2quEYt.

If you like to read more of my words, The River Caught Sunlight is on sale for $ .99 as an ebook at Kindle, Nook and ibooks through the month of December. It also available in print at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books A Million.

I’m linking this at Kelli Woodford’s place where you’ll find some gorgeous writing.




  • Beth Hess says:

    The cave you describe, Katie, reminds me of a tomb. The kind our wonderful Jesus walked out of ALIVE. But he did not come alive upon exit from it, He became alive in the middle of the darkness. At Christmas we remember he came to us at night, in a stable. Maybe that was some kind of cave, too. All I know is this… the sick do not need a doctor and those in the sunshine do night need a light. In darkness alone, can he shine most in our lives. I am so very humbled for you to have mentioned my posts as encouragement to you on your journey. Community is a blessed thing, indeed. And your making mention of it here is no small thing to my cave-dwelling parts either. Lots and love and light to you, friend.

    • What a wise, thoughtful comment. You’re right, Jesus came alive in the darkness, in the tomb, in the claustrophobic space.

      I think it’s fascinating how people write similar things without necessarily reading each other before hand, how our ears are to the same ground. I know a lot of it has to do with the season striking us similarly.

      Thank you for responding so wisely. Many, many blessings back at you too…I’m so glad to know you.

  • Lynn Gonzales says:

    This makes me think about the time that I mistakenly dialed you on my cell phone, and you called me back while I was in the grocery store. I promised to call back at a better time. I need to apologize that I have yet to call back. I am sorry.
    I understand that internal cave. The loss of parents and sibling causes quite an emptiness. Those relationships are so unique and so integral to who we have become, I don’t see a way to fill that space. It seems that cavern becomes a shrine so to speak.
    Thank you for sharing this. I am so remiss at sending out those kind thoughts and greeting of care. It will be a while for me to call you again. We are gone for quite some time, but know you are in my heart.

    • Thank you for reading this well but don’t feel badly you haven’t called back. We all get very busy. What I am finding very gracious are the friends from long ago who are returning to my life, and what gifts they are being.

      Losing my parents and brother was a big loss because I had no one to talk over the old stories with, to do remember when…Writing this novel helped with that.

      I’m more hopeful I think that the emptiness can be filled and/or put to good use. Henri Nouwen talks about turning loneliness into solitude in his book Reaching Out.

      But thank you for knowing how painful it has been through the years to have lost my family, when I was relatively young. I do look forward to talking on the phone and catching up when there is time.

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