Thursday, September 18, 2008

Our Light

The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?

                        Psalm 27.1 

In the Dark

We hate what we can’t see. It terrifies us because we know it’s there, yet we have no way of gauging its proximity to us, its size, whether or not it’s poised to strike. Incapable of judging its posture and expression, we can’t ascertain if it’s a legitimate threat or just something else, like us, lost in the dark. Sometimes, after light comes, we find out there’s nothing or no one there at all. But until we can see, we live in the grips of constant fear.

Isaiah wrote, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9.2) Today, we appreciate this more as poetry than prophecy. But when it first was written, darkness was an entity unto itself. It couldn’t be dispelled with the flick of a switch. When it fell over primitive societies, it was best to stay put. You didn’t walk into the night unless it was unavoidable. (If you did, you sure didn’t travel alone.) Old Testament writers consistently equated darkness and death—“the place of no return.” (Job 10.12) So, when Isaiah portrayed Christ’s coming as “a great light,” he promised more than illumination. He promised life.

The Light of Life

“I am the light of the world,” Jesus said in John 8.12, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” We should dial back our modern familiarity with light and hear His words as if we actually stood among His listeners. To their ears, His statement was flabbergasting. If they heard Him correctly, by following Him they would never again be endangered because He would provide them life-saving light! They’d always know where they were, who and what were around them, and where they going. The enormity of this idea overwhelmed them.

Facing Our Fears

Christ’s path is not for the faint-hearted or easily frightened. It takes us down dark alleys and leads through shady places. With little or no warning, rejection, sickness, doubt, heartbreak, loneliness and every other imaginable danger loom up, suddenly plunging us into impenetrable darkness. If we fall back on old behaviors, we tremble. Either we stand, locked in paralysis, or we try to feel our way through it alone, hoping we’ll avoid injury and harm.

But we’re not alone. We have the Light of life. And here’s what’s most amazing about that. When Christ’s light conquers our darkness, it enables us to face the fears hidden inside it. We see them for what they are—needless anxieties over people and things we can’t control. We may never defeat them, but we can always find ways to circumnavigate them. They lose their power over us. With the Lord as our light and salvation, there’s nothing—and no one—to fear.

Once Christ, the Light of life, breaks into our darkness, we can face the fears it concealed.

(Tomorrow: Our Hope


Missy said...

"Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see, and they will not be a substitute for seeing." - Flannery O'Connor

Your post today reminded me of this quote. And once again I am thinking about light and darkness and seeing and not seeing and seeing what we want to see...

And comfort in Christ.

Tim said...

Hey, Missy!!! Great to see you!

Ah, Flannery O'Connor--that lady could pack more truth in a couple sentences than some writers squeeze out in a lifetime's work. Her ability to mine pearls of wisdom--pure faith--from the rough hills of reality resonates particularly close with someone like me, whose family roots run deep in the red clay of northern Alabama. Having been raised to suspect anyone whose creed varied the slightest from our hardcore legalistic tradition, I'm sure you can imagine my utter shock and delight in finding out she was Catholic!

I'd been reading her and marveling at her grasp of Christian ideals since I was 12 or so. (I even fantasized about her being the coolest Sunday school teacher I could ever have!) And then, when I discovered that she basically believed the same things and lived by the same values as us, it was a major epiphany. It quite possibly was the first big lesson I received about how true followers of Christ transcend doctrine and dogma of every stripe to pursue His knowledge and lifestyle above all else. I was Pentecostal, she was Catholic, but we were both Christians most of all, which made labels irrelevant. Her stories irrefutably shaped my conscience; her life opened my mind!

Thanks for bringing her to this conversation! And how I missed listing her among my favorite writers on my profile I'll never know. Fixing that is my next task.

As her stunning quote states--and as you've eloquently added--people of faith thrive by looking past what they see to believe in a greater reality that can't possibly (and never will) be fully seen. We can't foolishly ignore what's right there before our eyes, but we'd be bigger fools to accept it at face value! That's why I believe we should treasure the dark passages; they clear away natural observations and obstacles to invite us to find unnatural hope illuminated by the Light of life. That sustains us through the night. But it also transforms us in ways that we carry forward when the day breaks.

afeatheradrift said...

So very nicely said as usual Tim, I'll add this to my blog the next update I do in a couple of days.