Where the Light Shines

I have started numerous times to write this post over the last two weeks and each time, something tragic has happened to cause me to pause. Whenever I want to write about the dark and difficult times in life that we all experience, I always want to offer hope. I desire with every fiber of my being to find a filament of light, a way of turning over the presenting suffering and find some speck of gold. When the pandemic began I longed to peel back the curtain and get a glimpse of just what was going on, what was being fashioned, or what small good might be waiting for us all in the outcome. Where this desire to find beauty in tragedy comes from, I do not know. What I DO know is that I’ve had my own share of hardship and tragedy in life and I continue to experience shards of Light breaking into my own and others’ lives around me.

To come right out and say that light shines in the dark places can be felt as a punch in the gut. Especially in the midst of those dark times. Whether someone has just lost their 16-year old son in a tragic car accident, or someone has been diagnosed with colon cancer, or elementary school children and teachers have been killed while being in school, there is a place of such gruesome pain that can leave one wondering if Light even exists. In this space, my desire would be to just sit with the pain, alongside the dear human beings who are affected by such tragedies. No words. No platitudes. Just presence.

Here you can see the slits along the vertical edges of every letter.

Yet, if I speak of my own tragic stories, I would tell you that the darkest places were in some mysterious way, merely the beginnings of an opening letting into my life glimmers, flickers and then unimaginable light. By this I do not mean the frothy, happy-go-lucky kind of light, but rather the bursting out of rigidly held false beliefs, the dying of self-reliance, and the unbearable yet enlivening freedom from earthly expectations. I can indeed attest to Light coming through the dark places, much like pin pricks in paper, cracks in a doorway, rips in fabric.

In tapestry weaving, slits occur naturally when two colors are woven side by side for several rows going vertically up the warp. A tapestry weaver has a couple of options to close these slits…either by a technique used while weaving or by sewing the slits together after the weaving is completed. In an effort to demonstrate visually how the Light comes through our dark places, I chose to leave these slits unsewn, thereby leaving a virtual hole in the tapestry surface. As I wove this piece for an art exhibit taking place through Lent and Easter, I hoped that adding lighting behind the tapestry might demonstrate what John 1:5 tells us so boldly…

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

7″ x 8″ Woven Tapestry. Handspun wool. Strand of lights.

This verse is part of a larger passage about the Son of God coming into our world. The word “overcome” is also translated “understood” and so encompasses a broad range of how we just do not naturally see His beauty and light. As I read the interactions of Jesus with people in John’s gospel, it seems that His Light shines brightest in all their dark, painful, weak, and grief-stricken places. We may think that he shines most when we are put together, doing all the right things, being victorious in our lives. But the evidence in John is the opposite. The Light shines in the darkness of our lives, the cracked places, the slits, the wounds, the gaps, the broken spaces between who we want to be and who we are not. It always catches my breath, that we are often able to see more clearly the stunning Light of Life when the fabric is ripped apart, when holes are punched into our perfect pictures of how life should be, when slits open up in a once seamless life. These are all things I do not say glibly. No. I speak them with the greatest of care, for they are best heard in tender whispers, with reverence for the unspeakable griefs we all bear.

This piece of artwork is just one among many in an exhibit by the Almond Tree Artist Collective. I invite you to come to the opening and reception for this show filled with poetry, music, paintings, drawings, tapestry, woven cloth, pottery and more! The opening is on Saturday, April 15th at 7 pm at Grace Presbyterian Church in Kernersville, NC. All the artists will be present that evening and there will be a time of question & answer after viewing the artwork. I am pleased and humbled to show work alongside such talented artists. We have walked through so much together as we have planned and shared our processes with one another at our monthly meetings.

May all the dark places that you or your loved ones are experiencing,

become crevices and maybe even windows

of Light unimaginable. ❤️

10 thoughts on “Where the Light Shines

  1. Theresa m raker says:

    An amazing piece Jennifer❤ Yes it is hard to see the light in the dark places. Thank you for reminding us to look for the light.

  2. Sandy says:

    Oh my. It’s been a long sad month here, there and everywhere. This was a salve. The work is unique and wonderful. So proud to know you and call you friend. Eager to see this exhibit. Thanks for everything, Jennifer. ♥️

    • Jennifer Edwards says:

      I am just now seeing this Sandy, in May! I do hope things have improved in your world since March. And I hope you are happily spinning and knitting or whatever your heart desires! All the best! -Jennifer

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