Friday, May 31, 2019

Darkness & Fear

Picture Book: The Dark
Authors: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Summary: Lazlo is a young boy who is afraid of the dark. The dark is sometimes in Lazlo's closet or behind the shower curtain, but mostly it lives in the basement. 
At night, the dark goes outside and spreads itself against the windows and doors of Lazlo's house. 
Lazlo greets the dark each morning, hoping it will stay in the basement.
But one night, the dark visits Lazlo in his room (the nightlight goes out) and says that it wants to show Lazlo something... 
in the basement. The dark lures Lazlo to a bottom drawer of a chest, all the while explaining why the things Lazlo is afraid of are important, especially the dark. 
"Without the dark, everything would be light, and you would never know you needed a light bulb." 
Lazlo takes the light bulb, says thanks to the dark, and returns to his bedroom. 
When Lazlo visits the dark the next morning, he notices how the open drawer looks like the dark is smiling. 
The dark is never scary to Lazlo after that night. 
Hanna’s Comments: If you know the work of Lemony Snicket, you know he is an expert at dark humor and dark wisdom. Here he plays with concepts of fear and darkness but also courage and perseverance; all are important subjects for people of faith to explore, especially knowing we can have coping strategies and spiritual practices in particular. Recently, I read a beautiful article about the death of writer Rachel Held Evans. At her death, our world lost a great Christian witness, but her 2 young children lost much more. The article mentions that RHE often read this book to her young son. Heartrendingly, his experiences with this book and the conversations they likely had during the reading might help him grieve the loss of his mother. Children are naturally fascinated by fear and darkness. They want to be more resilient during such experiences. Reading books like this one and others are one way to encourage more meaningful spiritual formation. For adults this book could introduce a small group based on Barbara Brown Taylor's excellent book Learning to Walk in the Dark. On Sunday, I plan to teach a lesson to elementary children by reading this book and Caroline Woodward's Singing Away the Dark, another PBT favorite. Then I'll simply guide the children in a conversation comparing and contrasting the two books. Afterwards, I'll tie their ideas to our summer sermon series featuring some OT heroes who all experienced fear and showed courage. 
Original Publisher & Date: Little Brown, 2013
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet, Audio
Scripture Connections: Be strong & courageous... the Lord is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9); Trust in the Lord with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5); …in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33); God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7)
Idea(s) for Application: As described above, this book would be a great tool for exploring darkness and fear with children and adults.


  1. I love this post. Is interesting to think about from a spiritual perspective -light versus dark or light AND dark. Pondering....

    1. Thanks for the comment, Kelly! I'm learning that the dark places & times (difficult problems, loss, heartbreak, injury, illness, even my fears and tragedies) are where I learn the most. I think the first step is not to fear the dark so much and know that God is with us through it all, offering help and comfort and even peace eventually. That's what I want our kids in churches to learn. Delving into the Enneagram is teaching me more and more about this.