Hello Darkness, my old friend; I’ve come to talk with you again. The first line to “Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel’s hit song from the sixties catches this listener off-guard: when has darkness been my friend?
Around the age of eleven, my older brother left home for a new job in D.C. It was late summer, and I took the occasion to rearrange his second-floor bedroom. I pulled the twin bed away from the wall and repositioned it right next to the screened-in window so I could lay there at night. With no air-conditioning upstairs, the room I shared with my sister on the other side of the house could become unbearably hot and stuffy. Since his room had two doors (one led in; one led out) plus the window, when all three were open, I could catch a nice cross-breeze and a comfortable night’s sleep.
Lying back on the pillow, despite sleepiness, I recited the words to my Catholic prayers. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love… they comforted me like nothing else. The Lord’s Prayer, I’d known by heart ever since I was three or four. I might begin them on my knees, then hop up on the mattress and sense the loving arms of God wrapped around me.
One such night, I lay in the dark bedroom, facing the open window with the pillow scrunched-up under my neck. The slightest breeze traveled through the screen to cool my face. My prayer attention waned as I got comfortable. Background sounds I became used to hearing included highway noise just past our house; Dad’s clock collection tick-tick-ticking, and random dogs barking. But before I drifted off to sleep, my gaze was drawn to our nighttime neighborhood. My gaze floated over four backyard scenes, softly lit by a distant streetlight. My position from above gave me perspective on not just the next-door-neighbor’s back sidewalk and Mrs. Radcliff’s clothesline, but past the Hudson’s detached garage…
And in the furthest distance, about 300 yards away–highlighted by the streetlamp–I could make out Cindy’s enormous tree, where a bunch of us kids played kick-the-can. The tree trunk: our base. “Ollie, Ollie, in-come free!” Whoever was “It” called in those still hiding when our game was over. The streetlamp’s timer always triggered an end to our play, and set-off Mom’s alarm too: if my brother, sister and I didn’t head home upon illumination, Mom came to our back stoop and yelled, “Kids, time to come in!”
As my eyes became fixed on the scene out the window, a remarkable sight suddenly caught my attention, and I sat straight-up in bed. But when I did, the phenomenon disappeared. It was only from a reclining position that I could see it. I lay back down, my eyes peeled for the spectacle. It was so miraculous, I didn’t dare blink, lest it disappear like vapor, like a dream upon waking.
With my nose up close to the screen, I blinked hard a few times, expecting to break the spell. But there it was again: Jesus’s profile, perfectly outlined by the branches on Cindy’s tree. As if God Himself had sketched it with a glow-pen, the Savior’s face was in silhouette. So perfectly shaped–his forehead, nose, and bearded chin, tilting up toward heaven. I took it all in, and took it very personally. It was as if Christ Himself were saying, “Child, I hear your prayers.” The sight increased my faith a hundred-fold. I don’t remember ever telling a soul, but I went to that same window for nights-on-end, searching for the Savior’s visage, filled with peace when I found it again and again.
I’d heard of devotees—mostly Catholic–who traveled far distances to witness manifestations of His or His mother Mary’s presence. In one case, witnesses claimed tears could be seen falling from a statue of the Virgin Mother, right out of Mary’s eyes. I imagined inviting pilgrims to my house:
“You have to go up into my brother’s bedroom at night, after the street light comes on. And you have to lie down in his bed, just-so, with your head turned toward the screen…” Some might have traveled from all parts of the world to see what I’d seen; lined up down our front stairs, out the door, and down the sidewalk…Glad I kept it to myself.
By week’s end, the manifestation of Christ’s profile had ceased to have such definitive lines. But during the nights I witnessed it, the miracle at the window was a reflection of His love. Over the years, I could recall the sight as clearly as when I saw it for the very first time. I’ve since wondered: had some of my neighbors, when they heard us back there playing, had some of them been praying for us kids?
When I joined the Methodist church, I discovered Bible study. The stories became a treasure trove of miracles. The story of Daniel is replete with them, where darkness becomes a factor:
Daniel, a courageous believer, is summoned (in the second chapter of the book that bears his name) to help King Nebuchadnezzar interpret the dream that has been plaguing him. Here’s what Daniel has to say to the king about darkness, and about the One, true God:
“He reveals deep and secret things.
He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.”
I read how Daniel sought grace from the king, and more importantly, from God. Secrets were “revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven.” Daniel 2:19. I’m no Daniel, but I’ve witnessed such wonderful blessings from God’s presence.
On August 21st, our nation experienced a most rare phenomenon: darkness in the middle of the day, caused by a full moon being in the exact celestial position to hide the sun, if only for a few precious minutes. For those who witnessed its “totality”, the darkness was absolutely miraculous.
“Hello Darkness, my old friend…”