Moonlight Reflections by Elise M. Edwards


elise-edwardsAs I post this, May 10, a full moon, known as the “Bright Moon” or “Flower Moon” is in the sky.  This full moon occurs during a season of transition when living thing things renew and bloom.  For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s spring, but another transition is already underway.  For many of us, spring is nearing close to summer in temperatures; in plant, animal, and insect life; and in our schedules.  I am concluding a long, demanding spring semester and yearning for summer.  Even though I welcome the transition, I know that like all change, it holds both opportunity and challenge.  The full moon prompts me to look at the upcoming summer with clear, examining eyes.

It’s strange–perhaps downright heretical–for a Christian to talk about the power of the moon.  How could the moon prompt me to do anything?  I’m sure that sounds too astrological or new-agey or (gasp!) pagan for some of my friends and family.  The moon is associated with the occult and the Divine Feminine, and so, in some Christian circles, seen as inherently dangerous.  And yet, if our fear leads us to refuse to look to the heavens for inspiration, to marvel at the wondrous expanse of it, and see the cyclical patterns of our universe, then we surely turn our eyes away from the Creative Source of it all.

I wasn’t always attentive to the moon and the night sky.  Then, a couple summers ago, my sister sent me a copy of Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark.  The book jacket declares it to be about “FINDING THE LIGHT IN THE DARK.”  Let me be honest. It’s hard for me to see or use phrases like “darkness” or “blackness” to signify pain, loss, struggle, or evil.  As an African-American woman, I’m well aware that conceptions of light representing goodness and dark representing evil are not only linguistic; they carry over into our world in all kinds of preferences and hierarchies, which we see evidenced in racism and colorism.  But my sister is a black feminist scholar and an excellent curator of books, so if she sends me a book, I do read it, even if the book jacket description is off-putting.

I’m glad I did.  Barbara Taylor Brown talks about how much we learn from the darkness; that we need it as much as light.  She helped me become more aware of the vitality that a night landscape holds, more tolerant of my middle-of-the-night fears, and more observant of the moon’s shape and position in the sky. Have you ever noticed that—not counting the eclipses–the moon appears to us as much in light as it does in shadow?

There’s balance to the moon’s cycles.  Even when fully shadowed as the new moon, this heavenly body has the power to affect the seas.  The dark surfaces are obscured by shadow, but they’re never really gone.  The darkness diminishes and grows every 28 days, standing beside, but in stark contrast to the brightness from the unobstructed reflection of the sun.

As above, so below.  The cyclical pattern of the waxing and waning moon can serve as a metaphor for the ways our deeds and intentions will transition between hiddenness and exposure; secrecy and disclosure; behind-the-scenes action and out-in-the-open movement.  Neither end of the spectrum is wholly good or bad.

Christian religion tends to praise the coming of the light;  it fears or hides from the dark.  “What done in the dark will come to light.”  It’s an ominous warning that what you want to hide will eventually be revealed.  It’s a theme in recent news, too:  James Comey, the FBI Director, was just fired, exposing the President’s concern over an investigation into Russian ties that will not stay hidden.  An article just passed across my phone describing how Comey’s dismissal exposes Trump’s “simmering anger.  Protesters at Bethune-Cookman University rightfully displayed their anger and disapproval about their commencement speaker despite their university president’s threats.  The full moon reminds us that truth will comes out, just as surely as time passes.

Light is good.  But bright lights can be blinding. Unmediated, the sun’s rays can harm you.  The moon, bearing the sun’s reflection, is not so dangerous.  A mature Christian spirituality will make room for darkness, for obscurity, for the beauty and vitality of the night.

A few of nights ago, a friend who was my house wanted to step out to my back yard to make some phone calls.  I encouraged her to do so, but noted that the patio lights weren’t working.  It was well past sunset, but she was completely unconcerned.  Perhaps it was that her phone’s flashlight would illuminate her way.  Or maybe, it was that the darkness offers its own kind of comfort – privacy and solitude.  Once your eyes adjust, you can see by the light of the moon.  You don’t need much else.

In the brightness of the full moon and all the exposure it signifies, I can appreciate the darkness around the moon and all it signifies. That darkness isn’t all evil—it’s a sign of mystery, of the feminine, of beauty in the shadows.  I know that it’s all a part of me.

Elise M. Edwards, PhD is a Lecturer in Christian Ethics at Baylor University and a graduate of Claremont Graduate University. She is also a registered architect in the State of Florida. Her interdisciplinary work examines issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter, google+ or academia.edu.

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Categories: Christianity, Divine Feminine, fear, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, In the News, meditations, Nature, religion, Seasons, Spirituality

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11 replies

  1. ”The moon is associated with the occult and the Divine Feminine, and so, in some Christian circles, seen as inherently dangerous!” I’m laughing!

    Easter is determined by the full moon, Ramadhan is determined by the crescent moon, Buddha’s birthday and various other hallmarks are determined by the full moon – many major religions arrange religious ceremonies around what state the moon is in! Around The Divine Feminine indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this post, Elise. During the ten years I was a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) I heard numberless testimonies about the Light. More than once I was “led” to give messages about the nurturing qualities of darkness (earth, womb, rest, renewal) and to point out that light, while also life-giving, can be harsh. The moon does teach us to observe–and appreciate–all phases. Like you, I cringe when people equate darkness with evil and night with good. I also appreciate your observation that loving creator surely means loving creation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with you that too much bright light can be blinding. I’ve long though that the so-called teachings about “Living in the Light” and “Seeking the Light” are racist. So are the polarities about light=good/dark=evil. So is Africa as the Dark Continent. So are a lot of the Jungian teachings (light=masculine=good/dark=feminine=evil) and New Age teachings based on Jung.

    Thanks for writing this thoughtful post about light and dark and our need to observe cycles in the moon and in ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Barbara! I think the problem comes from making these sharp distinctions or polarities, as you say. we are tempted to cast one as good and the other as evil, as if it was ever that simple. Both light and darkness may help us at a spiritual level.

      Like

  4. The moon teaches us about cycles – that everything has a season, that self reflection is critical – I could go on and on here. The idea that the moon is evil is pure projection on the part of the observer.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved your insights – thank you! I particularly appreciated your comment that, “But bright lights can be blinding. Unmediated, the sun’s rays can harm you.” People forget this so easily, don’t they? I wrote my memoir “Desert Fire” because of how I eventually came to feel myself assaulted by the fire of the Sonoran Desert in Tucson; the fiery light built up over several years until I felt like I was going mad…and I retreated further and further inside myself and inside our home where I turned one room into a dark cave with color and water fountains and pillows and curtains. I had been comfortable in the darkness of reflection, meditation, healing, and spiritual presence for nearly 20 years at that point, but the excess of intense light and heat nearly overwhelmed me nonetheless. As you said, “Once your eyes adjust, you can see by the light of the moon.” Ahhh…the soft light of the moon is blessed indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Just in case you want some Biblical authorization, look what I found: https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Moon 41 Bible verses about the moon. Not that authorization should be required!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautiful post, Elise. The moon has been important to me for decades. We can see our cycles mimicked in its changes. Its beauty lights up even the night skies of our biggest cities, where stars are lost in the light pollution. And within Taoism, the moon’s rays are believed to calm our nerves. I’m sad to hear that in some Christian circles it’s seen as inherently dangerous.

    When I taught Women’s Studies, I led a session about the racist connotations of darkness in American English. It’s important to point them out again and again, so we can free our language of reinforcing racism. Thanks for this reminder as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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