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Spiritual Enlightenment Through Profound Darkness

Can you imagine what it would be like to lose three generations of your family in one blinding moment? How would you survive? That happened in 1991 to Jerry Sittser, a professor at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington.

He, his wife, Lynda, their four children, and his mother, Grace, had been to a Native American powwow in Idaho. As they were returning home, a car with a drunk driver going 85 miles an hour swerved and crashed into them head-on. In an instant Sittser lost his mother, his wife, and their youngest daughter.

In A Grace Disguised, Sittser describes with searing honesty what it was like to be a single father, a teacher, a counselor to others while he himself was a man bereft and torn, slipping into a black hole of oblivion and often simply wanting out.

One night he had a kind of "waking dream." The sun was setting, and he was frantically chasing after it toward the west, hoping to catch it and bring it back. But it was a losing race. Soon the sun was gone, and he "felt a vast darkness closing in."

Shortly after this, his sister Diane told him that the quickest way to reach the sun is not to go west but instead to head east, to move fully "into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise."

It was a counterintuitive insight that helped Sittser find a road to recovery: "I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head….I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it."

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