At the completion of the Inward Journey, one feels a renewed sense of purpose, of identity. Having survived the dark night of the soul, one feels newly energized. And with all this comes a feeling of responsibility, a sort of “survivor’s guilt.” Not really guilt, but a sense of obligation, like the apostle Paul describes himself, “a debtor.” We want to help others facing the dark night.
But the dark night has taught us that growth is not necessarily welcomed by all. Some will not want what we have to offer. Some will not be ready to receive it. Still others may not understand it. So the Outward Journey begins.
We begin to reach out, but carefully. An old proverb says “Knowledge is proud it knows so much. Wisdom is humble that it knows so little.” The new knowledge gained in the dark night has given us wisdom, has humbled us. Even though we know we have valuable answers, we also realize that not everybody is asking the questions to which we have found answers. And even some asking do not want the answers we have, true or not.
And that makes up much of the Outward Journey. Seeking those whom we can help, those we might help, those who will allow us to help. Finding out how and when our help will help.
Finding others who have made the Inward Journey and begun the Outward Journey can help. Those who have never experienced the Dark Night will not understand us, and it will be difficult for us to help them.
Just as everyone’s Inward Journey is at once typical and unique, so will be the Outward Journey. So we can learn from others who have gone or are going through the experience, but we cannot simply copy them. That’s good and bad news. We can benefit from the experience of others, but we must find our own way. God does not repeat Himself, nor make any of us mere duplicates. So the Outward Journey will be a continuing journey of discovery, as we explore ways to share our authentic selves with others seeking their own authenticity.
It will be, as John Ciardi once described writing poetry, “Not easy, but joyfully difficult.”