i’m taking a brief departure from this current series what could be to participate in the december synchroblog, a group of bloggers writing on the same topic. i always love participating and hearing from a variety of voices & perspectives. you can check out the links below. in the month’s topic is “light and dark as motifs of spirituality.”
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like a lot of people, i struggle with a basic human tendency toward black and white thinking. it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be, and i am thankful that a big piece of my spiritual journey in the past decade or so has been focused on learning what it means to live in the tension of real life, with it’s good & its bad. with its known and its unknowns. with its ugly & it’s beautiful. with its depravity & its dignity. with its light and its dark. it’s not entirely natural, though, and embedded deeply inside of me is an expectation of myself, of God, or of others that is often unrealistic, unreasonable, and unfair. life was never supposed to be all light. or all dark. but in this season of advent we are reminded that Jesus, the Light of the world, continually pierces through the darkness in wild, unexplainable ways to bring people across cultures & circumstances greater hope, peace, joy, and love.
we sometimes think that our society has become worse, more depraved, over the years, but in reality, since the beginning of time, the spirit of darkness has always been at work, pulling people toward power & evil & self-centeredness & separation & loneliness & hate & corruption. this is nothing new. when it comes to these things, the world that Jesus entered as a baby wasn’t all that different than the world we live in now; the same issues apply and many are still looking for the same things that they were looking for then–justice. mercy. help. hope. understanding. love. but i think what happened to them, what happened to us, is they were looking for what they thought they needed, for what they unrealistically expected: a king, a dramatic rescue, immediate results. the messiah, the savior, had better deliver the goods! what i absolutely love about the gospels is how completely contrary Jesus was to what people expected. but what that might have meant for them, what it might means for us, is sometimes this unmet expectation leaves us in what feels & seems like utter darkness–a longing, waiting, expecting, hoping for something that maybe we’re realizing just might not ever come in the way we expected. i think that is where my faith has shifted in these past years; i don’t demand as much from God as i used to but am more apt to notice the small & beautiful & sometimes imperceptible-at-first ways Jesus is moving in people’s lives & celebrate that instead of shaking my fists at all the things that still look grim. this world is hard. it is harsh. this side of heaven there are some things i will never see healed the way that i want them to be healed & i’ll admit, it pisses me off. but then i remember that Jesus didn’t promise that this dark world would suddenly become light. he promised tastes of the kingdom now, that he would shine his reflection through us and be constantly at work redeeming, restoring, bringing glory until we all take our last breath. until then, i will have to acknowledge that in the midst of this dark world, i must strain to see light. to notice slivers where i might have missed. to not expect that every day will be filled with glory the way i want it but to be satisfied & thankful for the slivers of goodness, of beauty, of healing, of hope that slice through the darkness & remind me that Jesus, the light of the world, hasn’t ditched us but is alive and well, bringing the good news into hard places of my life, my friends lives, people-all-over-the-world’s lives.
some would say that i’m settling, not expecting miracles. i will push back and say that i do believe in miracles. i can see miracles everyday when my eyes aren’t blinded by expectations of big miracles. the ones i often see just don’t look at exciting as some or even remotely to close to my not-so-humble idea of what God should do! but i must say, in a given week, i see God cracking open darkness all the time in people’s lives, penetrating slivers of light that remind me that we’re not done for, that it’s not the end of the story, and that Hope lives & takes all different forms.
yeah, i used to expect God to wipe out darkness in one fell swoop–in my life, in the life of my friends. now, a sliver’s now enough for me. more powerful than i ever expected. more beautiful than i could have imagined. so when it comes to light & dark as motifs for spirituality, i thought i’d take a practical bent & share some slivers with you, moments that i encountered over the past few weeks where light penetrated the darkness & i saw courage, hope, healing, love, kindness in the midst of stark situations & circumstances:
- some single mommies i know sometimes want to throw in the towel. they’ve got bills to pay, jobs to get, babies to raise. but just a little bit of relief provided here and there by caring community lifts the floor & restores some hope in the midst. that’s light in the darkness.
- free bread provided by a local store tide over some families on the edge. that’s light in the darkness.
- a group of women walking through the pain of their sexual abuse tell shame to go to hell, that they’re tired of the power its had in their lives & it can’t keep having its hold on them. that’s light in the darkness.
- a man filled with self-doubt & insecurities from past emotional & physical abuse saying strongly & confidently “i am learning that i am valuable and i’m getting ready to forgive the people who harmed me.” that’s light in the darkness.
- someone who knows some specific pain & struggle passing on hope and love to someone else in the midst of the similar. seeing a story redeemed up close and personal. that’s light in the darkness.
- a coffeehouse filled with people listening to our brave friend share stories of her journey. seeing what true inside beauty & courage really looks like, feels like, is. that’s light in the darkness.
- a friend building a new life after a divorce & risking her heart again. that’s light in the darkness.
- another who is bruised & bloody after a painful church experience finding safety among some friends who aren’t afraid of her pain & will stand alongside her & accompany on the next leg of her spiritual journey. that’s light in the darkness.
everywhere i look, in small slivers, i see God’s light piercing the darkness. it’s hard to see sometimes. but it’s worth straining for. where did you see light this week?
God, give us eyes to see your light, piercing the darkness, in all kinds of ways.
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other synchrobloggers participating (more coming & i’ll add when i get their link):
bethany stedman – light is coming
beth patterson – advent: awaiting the ancient and ever new
j.r. miller – discover light in the darkness<!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–>
steve hayes – lord of the dark
liz at grace rules – what the heck?
adam gonnerman - in darkness
jeff goins – walking in the light with Jesus
lainie petersen – what the mirror doesn’t tell me
julie clawson – darkness and light
ellen haroutunian – holy darkness
susan barnes – …and here’s a photo of one i made earlier
sally coleman – light into dark
erin word – fire and sacrifice
josh jinno – spiritual motifs of dark and light
phil wyman - darkness: a thin place for my soul
k.w. leslie – darkness vs. blackness