While It Was Still Dark
Earlier this week (I can’t remember which day – they’ve all run together at this point) I walked outside to take my dog on her nightly trip to the bathroom and I stopped dead in my tracks as I looked up at the moon. It wasn’t just the moon that caught my attention, though, but rather the way the magnolia tree in the front yard seemed to perfectly frame the moon. It seemed almost too perfect, the way the leaves parted in circle to let the light from the moon (I later learned it was a Super Moon) shine through.
The next morning, I made the same trip outside to let the dog out, and caught a glimpse of the magnolia tree out of the corner of my eye. For a split second, I couldn’t believe it was the same tree I’d seen just the night before. The branches looked much more scraggly and patchy, and I could hardly make out what I thought was the perfect circle frame where the moon had shone through just hours before.
It’s no secret that the dark distorts our vision, but perhaps it’s also no coincidence that in the dark, rays of light seem more pronounced. More obvious. And perhaps that’s what the tree and the moon were trying to tell me about our current reality. Surrounded by darkness, and yet, finding cracks where the light breaks through.
Today, many Christians around the world celebrate Easter, the day of the church year designated for remembering the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As I prepared to celebrate Easter in my own faith communities today, I read and reflected on the resurrection narrative from the Gospel of John which says that “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb” (John 20:1). While it was still dark. While it was still dark. Jesus was resurrected while it was still dark. That is to say light broke through the darkness, that the creative and regenerative powers of the divine were made manifest in the darkness.
For many of us today, the darkness is tangible. But what’s also true is that even the deepest darkness can be transformed by just a pinhole, a crack, or a leafy frame of light. And sometimes, we find ourselves at the perfect vantage point to notice that the light has made all the difference. I’m thankful for those moments, and hope you’ll notice magnolia trees of your own this week, too.
Julie Tonnesen is the Campus Minister for LEAF (Lutherans, Episcopalians, and friends), is the co-advisor for the Interfaith LLC, and works with Protestant Life at Elon. She is also a 2014 graduate of Elon, and earned her M.Div. from Duke Divinity School in May 2019. Julie is a candidate for ordination in the Lutheran church (ELCA). Julie loves supporting students, reading, and spending time outside with her dog, Gracie.