Seeing in the rearview mirror

We want to know where we are, yet sometimes it only becomes clear as we look behind.

And we can’t drive from the rearview mirror unless we’re going backwards. But we can hope that someday we can make peace with these in-between times.

So for these current times, here is John O’Donohue’s beautiful blessing For the Interim Time.


When near the end of day, life has drained
Out of light, and it is too soon
For the mind of night to have darkened things,

No place looks like itself, loss of outline
Makes everything look strangely in-between,
Unsure of what has been, or what might come.

In this wan light, even trees seem groundless.
In a while, it will be night, but nothing
Here seems to believe the relief of dark.

You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.

The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.

You cannot lay claim to anything;
In this place of dusk,
Your eyes are blurred;
And there is no mirror.


Everyone else has lost sight of your heart
And you can see nowhere to put your trust;
You know you have to make your own way through.

As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow your confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you had outgrown.

What is being transfigured here is your mind
And it is difficult and slow to become new,
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.

+ John O’Donohue from Benedictus: a Book of Blessings, Bantam Press 2007

I suspect many of us resonate with these sentiments, for our personal lives and the world we live in.

And at this time, Advent becomes a critical transition period. It isn’t just the prelude to Christmas, the act to warm us up. Instead, it offers a means of waiting in the dark, listening to what it might say to us.

As Gideon Heugh offers in the introduction to Darkling, his journey through Advent (available via Amazon):

It is not always possible to know what you are going through until you have gone through it. Perhaps only history will know what to make of these times.

In our culture, darkness and night are metaphors that are charged with negativity. They are synonyms for evil, terror and despair. The darkling things of life are to be shunned. Feared, even.

We see this in our culture’s preference towards ‘spring’ energy. We want growth and renewal and movement. To stay where you are is to fall behind. We want to climb, to strive, to accumulate, and to do this all the time. We have forgotten that there is a season for everything – even the dark.

To live life in all its fullness, we need to find and cultivate the spirit of autumn and winter within us. We need to learn to live with the dark, not try and blast it away with neon lights and toxic positivity.

This is seeing with different eyes, yet we are not alone.


This week

Advent starts on Thursday, 1st December, and a few of us will be journeying together, using the reflections in Gideon’s book. If you want to join us, please let me know.