“And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” – John 3:19-21
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12
It is often hard to see the light. In others. In our world. In ourselves maybe most of all. Maybe that’s because our eyes grow accustomed to the dark.
Yet the light is there.
The other day I took Sam to her speech therapy appointment. A woman stepped onto the elevator pushing a little girl in a very high-tech wheel chair with all of the bells and whistles. The little girl sat all crumpled up in it, with her neck lodged between the two upper claws of the chair for stability.
I smiled and said, “hello,” first to the girl and then to the woman pushing the girl in her wheel chair.
The girl couldn’t talk. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t even form an expression of greeting. She just looked blankly back at me. It was hard to know if anything had registered.
And if truth be told, I felt in that moment a sense of both pity and revulsion, like I didn’t want to have to see this little girl. I didn’t want to have to take in her suffering or the deformity of her condition.
And as we stood in that elevator, I momentarily wondered about the girl’s mother. I wondered where she was. The woman smiling back at me seemed happy to be caring for this little girl- almost like she was getting paid for it.
That’s when I saw the woman lovingly stroke the little girl’s hair and proudly introduce her as her daughter. The girl’s mother had been right in front of my nose, only I hadn’t cared to notice.
The light of life.
I don’t know about you but sometimes the hardest thing for me to do is acknowledge and still love the dark parts of myself. They are the places that I would prefer others not see. I want to draw away in revulsion or pretend they are simply not there. Praying them away can be a form of this same fear and disgust.
Yet in the light of Jesus God looks at these parts of ourselves and a world crumpled up and deformed by sin and brokenness and like a proud mother says, “This is my son,” or “This is my daughter.” Only in the light of Jesus.
Where is the judgment here? The judgment comes when we see plainly for ourselves the light who is Jesus and turn away from it and go back into hiding. Because we would prefer not to acknowledge the mess that we make of our lives when left to our own devices. Apart from God’s in-breaking kingdom.
The cynic in me finds it hard to believe the promise that “whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Maybe that’s because I am often unable to appreciate how my own self-complacence and comfort are themselves a great darkness. Darker than Gethsemane. Even darker than the foot of a cross.
Because when we follow Jesus, we do follow Him through “dark” places. We will have to behold the darkness of falling away from Him, like Peter and Judas did. Great sacrifices in the name of Love will be asked of us, many of them painful to bear, much like a cross. These little “deaths” are all preparation for that day when each of us will follow Jesus through the literal valley of the shadow of death.
Have you ever walked down a trail in the woods in pitch black darkness with only a flash light illuminating the path in front of you? I remember hoping the batteries to my flash light would last long enough for me to find my way back to our tent, because otherwise I would be “toast.” The next meal for a grizzly bear. Or, the latest addition to the “missing person” list at the local Wawa.
Have you ever turned on the lights after being fast asleep in the dark and had to blink and rub your eyes to brace yourself for the light? This happens to me just about every morning when our alarm clock sounds its jarring, 5am wake-up call.
So long as we are walking behind Jesus, we have the light of life.