We welcome writer Kerri Leigh Power as our guest blogger today.

When the heart goes dark

CandlesRecently my husband came home with a stack of movies that he borrowed from the library. “I got one for you,” he said, handing me a DVD case. I looked at the cover and saw nuns in black robes, walking the halls of an oak panelled monastery. I guess he has caught on that I have a soft spot for Catholic sisters.

The movie, called No Greater Love, is a beautiful, meditative documentary about a group of Carmelite nuns living cloistered in the middle of London’s Notting Hill. The filmmaker spent 10 years corresponding with the convent before receiving permission to film their daily lives of prayer, silence, work and community.

In interviews, several sisters talk openly about the challenges of a life of faith and self-sacrifice. They’re touchingly honest about the times when God’s presence seemed to withdraw completely, leaving them in a spiritual desert. For one, this “dark night of the soul” lasted two years, and for another, eighteen years. Though they suffered greatly during these times, they seem to have come out the other side with a simpler and deeper sense of God in their lives. One sister describes the experience as “God’s way of progressively leading a person deeper into a truer relationship with him, which involves letting go of all earlier concepts and constructs about God.”

I don’t think I’m far enough along in my spiritual journey to have faced this kind of loss of faith—I’m still just putting my feet to the path. But the movie made me wonder if the “dark night” is a necessary part of our spiritual growth, whether we seek to know God as members of a religious order or in secular life. If I commit to a more authentic relationship with God, is the dark night awaiting me somewhere down the road?

Have you experienced (or are you now experiencing) a time when the faith that once comforted you seemed to be lost? What did (or does) it mean for you?