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Learning to Walk in the Dark

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

In her book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, my former professor, Barbara Brown Taylor, shares a story about her experience at an exhibition called "Dialogue in the Dark." It was the Atlanta version of an installation that had toured 150 cities in more than thirty countries since its inception in the late 1980s—the brainchild of a German social entrepreneur named Andreas Heinecke. Guided by a quotation from the Jewish German philosopher Martin Buber—“The only way to learn is through encounter”—Heinecke decided to create a physical experience of darkness that would allow sighted and blind people to change places. Dialogue in the Dark was the result—an exhibition in which sighted people are given red-tipped white canes before entering a completely dark exhibition hall where they are introduced to their blind guides. In her book, Dr. Taylor recounts her experience in the dark with her travel guide named Delores. For an hour, she stumbled through the dark, trying her best to follow Delores’s voice, running into walls and other people while tripping over her own cane.

About a decade ago, I attended the same exhibition while living in Atlanta. I can say that the experience was just as disorienting but also as transformative as Dr. Taylor’s. One thing that struck me and my friends was how the loss of sight impacted all of our other senses. At one point, we were supposed to identify a drink simply from its taste, but we couldn’t. And it seemed as though we could barely hear each other. We were practically screaming at each other the entire time. Once we finished with the exhibit and walked back into the light, we decided to wait outside for a moment to see if our guide, Greg, would walk by. We just had to see him in the light and eventually he did walk by. We sat in silence as he walked past us. My friends and I were in awe of him because he was so mighty, calm, and nurturing in the dark. One thing we realized in that moment, as we watched him walk by, is that he had something that we did not have. Greg was blind but he could see in the dark when we could not.

There are times when our faith walk is much like walking in the dark. We may hear the call to follow God forward but we may not always be able to see the path ahead of us; just as Abraham and Sarah were instructed to follow God forward toward a land they could not see. We may not always know where God is leading us but we can rest assured that if we follow God’s voice, we will land where God intended.

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