Dante's epic begins with the narrator saying:
In the middle of the journey of our life
I came to myself within a dark wood
Where the straight way was lost
Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell
Of that wood, savage and harsh and dense,
The thought of which renews my fear!
So bitter is it that death is hardly more.
We spend a lot of time at the hospital talking about this experience. We call it The Hole. It's unlikely you will be in the hospital and not be experiencing some kind of Hole. But even more then that - we all have Holes.
In classes, verbatims, supervision and conversations we explore our own discomfort with the hollows and caverns in our lives and experiences. Our fear that if we open those doors we will get sucked back. Our hesitation to getting in our holes and befriending the pain. Our reluctance to take what we've learned in our darkness and connect with others who are in that place.
"Hello down there, sorry I can't come any closer. Too messy for me. Way too scary. Hope you can feel my support thrown out miles above you. Be well!"
This is the most challenging learning edge for me. To use that ladder to climb down in my own life.
And in my ministry to recognize a person is in the hole, to get invited in, stay for awhile and connect and then to get out. I'm totally convinced of the utter importance of this for me.
The book Beauty speaks to the dark night of the soul or a wilderness experience. "A time of bleakness can also be a time of pruning. Sometimes when our minds are dispersed and scattered, this pruning cuts away all the false branching where our passion and energy were leaking out. While it is painful to experience and endure this, a new focus and clarity emerge. The light that is hard won offers the greatest illumination. A gift wrestled from bleakness will often confer a sense of sureness and grounding of the self, a strengthening proportionate to the travail of its birth. The severity of Nothingness can lead to beauty. The ruthless winter clearance of spirit quietly leads to springtime of new possibility. Perhaps Nothingness is the secret source from which all beginning springs."
Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:1,2