Jesus says He came as a sign of God’s Love, and that love radiates. It’s light. “Light,” Jesus says, “has come into the world.” The light He equates with truth. This light implies judgment — a verdict, Jesus calls it. A rendering of a final decision, condemnation, or pardon. So this light calls for a response. It calls for faith — choosing to believe in Jesus, to put your full weight in the gift of God — and it calls for facing up –choosing to come into the light, to bring your whole self into the wide searching brightness of it.
The light exposes, and the light heals. It’s the healing, the promise of it, that draws some in. And it’s the exposing, the threat of it, that keeps most at bay, that, indeed, keeps most loving the darkness.
To love the darkness. It’s a strong word, love. In the Greek, it’s none other than the word John made famous, agapao. It’s the same word he uses in John 3:16 to describe God’s self-giving, sacrificial love for us — “For God so loved [agapao] that He gave His One and only Son, that whosoever believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God loves us this way, unconditionally, against all odds, despite the pain.
And we love darkness the same: unconditionally, against all odds, despite the pain. It’s what kept me, even as a pastor, from always bringing all that I am into the Light — the fear that this sin, this grievance, this grudge, this crimp in my soul, will hurt more to fix than to keep.
This is the condemnation, Jesus says: light has come to you, but you won’t come to it. Staying where you are when there is something else, something indefinitely better, is offered, is it’s own condemnation. You can’t get well in the dark. You doom yourself by trying. But we try anyhow. The perpetual delusion of humanity is thinking we’re better off hiding than confessing, avoiding rather than facing, clinging to our sickness instead of taking the remedy that’s freely given and readily available.
Keeping in step with the Spirit, windlike as He is, is (at least) about walking in the light, and living there.
I believe that in every circumstance, there’s light and dark. There is truth and there is untruth. There’s the leading of the Spirit, and there are temptations of the flesh. when I drive, or speak with someone, or look at a woman, or spend money — everywhere, in everything, there’s light and dark.
Take driving, for instance. This has been a battlefield for me since before I drove, when my father treated every trip as a chariot race. Other cars with other drivers were our rivals. I sat long hours in the back seat as he fumed and cursed behind the wheel, and that had stamped me deeply. I often felt tremendous irritation with him — I can’t remember once ever feeling admiration for the way he drove — but somehow I failed to convert my irratation into a resolve to be otherwise. I mimicked him down to the smallest detail, and even magnified his example.
When I became a man, I did not put away childish things, not in this matter. I had, as though genetically bestowed, a lead foot. I had a quick temper. I had a range of gestures, reserved and specially cultivated for behind the wheel. The minute I sat there, the world became a contest for road space, right of way, lane mergers. The world was populated with rivals and obstacles.
This is not, as you can see, an edifying story, especially since my behavior behind the wheel persisted for many years past my conversion, past my call to ministry, past the the birth of my three children, past many milestones that should have killed it in its tracks. What finally brought me to my senses was a few years back, a rapidly approaching date: my own son’s sixteenth birthday. I realized he’d grown up under the shadow of my poor example, and suddenly I was deeply repentant and genuinely desperate to change.
So I did.
And was easier than I thought. I applied to driving what I had discovered about the rest of life: there is a way to please God in each and every moment, and to receive strength of God for just such a thing. And there is a way to disappoint God in each and every situation — by our actions, words, thoughts, attitudes — and to refuse His strength otherwise. With driving, I was consistently and willfully forgetting and rejecting virtually every time I sat behind the wheel what I was consistently and willfully remembering and embracing virtually everywhere else. My father set other poor examples for me (and, for the record, many good ones) that I learned not to imitate. His example of poor driving, almost alone among the other poor examples he set, had me in its grip. Which is another way of saying that this wasn’t his problem. It was all mine.
I had been driving, and driving poorly, for almost thirty years. I did it right up until the day I resolved to walk in the light — and drive in the light, too. That was all it took.
So here’s how it works. I’m coming to an intersection. There are more cars, I can see, than will get through at the next light. My well-ingrained habit is to fume, mutter, feel a vague sense of blame toward the driver immediately in front of me. This irritates my wife and children (when they’re with me), dishonors God (who’s Lord of time), erodes my health, wastes the moment, and doesn’t do a single thing to speed things up — in fact, it heightens my sense of delay.
I chose the darkness.
Same red light, same line up. This time, I choose the light. If I have passengers, I relish the moment for more conversation. If I’m alone, I “redeem the time” to talk to God, ponder a problem, listen more intently to the teaching CD I have in, sing along more lustily with the music CD I’m listening to. And here’s where it gets really subversive: I pray for and bless the driver in front of me.
It’s where the Spirit’s moving, and I just try to keep up, follow the light while I wait for the light.
LIGHT WAXES AND WANES
You’re wondering, maybe, what this has to do with seasons. Not much, yet maybe everything. One of the most distinctive characteristics about the seasons, where I live, is the varying duration of light season to season, and the varying quality of it. The dead of winter has a very short day, and high summer has a very long one. In the dead of winter, the light is brooding and grey or thin and pallid. In high summer, the light is tapestry-like, richly hued, dense with shadows. And between the two, winter and summer, each rings yet another change in light’s duration and intensity.
I think this observation can be applied, almost directly, to the seasons of the heart. Season to season, light waxes and wanes. It thins and thickens, lengthens and shortens. In Canada, sunlight in winter is a rare bird, skittish and shy, easy to flight, and so we crave it, hunt it, hold it tightly to ourselves whenever we lay hold of it; we find the trapezoidal patches of sunlight that fall slantwise through our windows, the beams of dusty gold that splash up against the far wall, and stretch out in them like felines. But in summer, light is so profuse, so predatory, we often avoid it: seek shade, wear wide-brimmed hats, sport sunglasses, duck into cool dark rooms, shulk along with shadows sides of buildings.
In spiritual matters, I think the observation holds true: we are more apt to seek in hard seasons than easy ones. I’ve observed in another book that the famous scene where Peter says to Christ: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” may be a true moment of Isaiah-like revelation, when Peter sees the sorididness and shabbiness of his own life in the light of God’s glory; but it might just be an evasion ploy, a diversionary tactic, a rare outburst to buy himself some time. After all, Peter says those words while standing knee-deep in fish. The catch of a lifetime. His biggest windfall ever. And I think he had an inkling — maybe it was a sheer gut feeling, or it was something he saw in Jesus’ eye — that Jesus had no intention of letting him enjoy it. It was a test. Jesus was about to up the ante, to find out if Peter loved him more than these, “Follow Me,” Jesus says. And He means now.
The boatful of fish would have cashed out nicely. It would have paid a lot of bills, bought a lot of upgrades, provided a few luxuries. It would have made Peter’s hardscrabble existence not so hard and scrabbly. Summer’s is about to break. “Depart from me, Lord.” With the prospect of an easy season right under his nose, and with the alternative that Jesus is about to offer, the life of a holy vagabond, Peter’s first instinct is to dodge the light.
Compare that with the companion story in John 21, where the risen Christ appears on a beach across from where Peter and his crew are fishing. It’s been a long night, and unproductive. Jesus hollers from the shore a fishing tip: cast your net on the other side. Maybe He can see, from His angle of vision, some sign that bodes fish, a ruffle on the lake’s surface, a gleam just beneath it. Or maybe He just knows. Anyhow, they do as He says, and once more the catch is on. This time Peter acts the opposite way of the last time: he strips, plunges into the water (he tried walking atop that lake once, with mixed results), and comes up panting and dripping, hoping with everything in him that Jesus will reissue the call, the hard call to follow him.
Jesus does not disappoint.
Why such a different reaction this time around?
The season Peter’s been in. Those three denials, and all that surrounded them — the arrest, the trial, the beating, the Via Delorosa, Golgotha, the cross, the death — have plunged him hard and fast into winter. Life has never been darker for him. Peter knows this time that the fish are not for keeping. “Do you love Me more than these?” He’s so starved for light, so overjoyed that Christ would shine His face upon him again, that he’s the first to show up.
~ Darren’s Comments ~
It is not too hard for me to think of situations that have been hard in my life i.e. crisis in my career path or the woman who I was going to spend the rest of my physical life with (God, My Wife, and I) or the major incident that happened in my life at the age of 18 (Running With Christ. . .). And there are times where I chose the darkness instead of the light like instances of pride and still battle with it to this very day. With my humbleness emblazoned for the world to see, I tend to fail at the issue of pride miserably.
If you go back to the beginning of Genesis, Adam and Eve’s children — Cain and Able — were bringing their first ever recorded offerings to the Lord:
“In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also presented an offering — some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but he did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” Then he said, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! So now you are cursed, alienated from the ground that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood you have shed. If you work the ground, it will never again give you its yield. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.””
Genesis 4:3-12 CSB
The unwritten portion is key here. For a long time, I was thinking, “What did Cain do wrong?” He was gathering all the best produce for the Lord from the garden. Over the years, I asked a bunch of pastors but they could never give me a satisfying answer. I was seeking but never finding. Secretly, I was begging God for the answer until one day God gently revealed it to me: Cain, deep down in his soul, was prideful, and his pride was the root cause for his jealousy, which led him to commit the second sin in the Bible. And what sin was that? Cain led him to murder his brother, Abel, just because the Lord wanted the first of everything, not the best according to human eyes. But God does not think like humans (1 Samuel 16:7 – “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the LORD sees into the heart”” [CEB]).
I want to tell you of how pride, in its sneakiest form, almost produced a huge hindering block that would have ruined our marriage for over 26 years. Pride can get into our lives — I was so close to the Lord even before my almost death-inducing car accident. True, I got even closer through the events that happened on the blistering summer day (Running With Christ. . .), but somehow I forgot that pride comes in diverse forms. I was so consumed in my appearance before God and to the outside world because of the after effects of the accident. However, pride is sneaky, and it can even can take something which you can use for the Lord (where you rely on Him everyday); pride (satan’s child) try to ruin our new standing before the Lord as husband and wife.
Even when you are thinking your doing what exactly God wants, pride can make you not recognize the big picture because you are so focused or consumed in on the minute details that you don’t pay attention to it.. This happened to me in where I do not consult my wife on spiritual matters until I realized from my pastor that she was spiritually mature. Now, my wife was a baby Christian when we married. I was relatively spiritually mature so you can see the quandary I was in. So, I understood that God wanted me to lead her in spiritual matters. When we set out on our journey together, this proved incredibly difficult for me. I had always wanted a wife that was as spiritually mature as I was. I did not think God had granted me what I so earnestly yearned for.
Recently, however, I was with a good friend and a senior pastor of a small congregation of which we attend. He was astounded by my wife in the mature spiritual questions she had asked. And I recognized that God had granted me that which I truly desired: a spiritual wife that was on the similar spiritual level as I was.
And, over recent days, my attitude has changed as to the spiritual level that she’s on. Now I can revel at God who fulfilled my prayers from over 26 years ago. God works in mysterious ways even if you have to wait 26 years or longer. I am self-reminded of this one question — Do you love Me more than these? To be honest, I have to admit that I don’t do this 100 percent of the time since I am so consumed on the minute details. However, God is a forgiving God, and once you and I admit to that sin to God (whatever sin it is) and ask Him to forgive you of it, then you can start all over again.
~ Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger ~