On Darkness and Light, and Why It Matters to You.

I can’t exactly pinpoint where I was, what I was doing, or who I was with when the truth hit me, but at some point in college, the concept of light struck me in such a way that has forever changed me and the way I think, act, and believe.

What I do remember is learning the eternal certainty that no matter how dark darkness is, light can and will always overcome. With light, there is always victory. With light, there is always grace. With light, there is always life.

It makes sense, then, that when God was creating, the first thing He spoke into existence was light:

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. -Genesis 1:2-4

Pre-creation, everything was in darkness and empty. In this context, the original Hebrew translates “darkness” as disorder, confusion, uncertainty, death. Yet, as soon as the Spirit of God began to hover, things began to happen. God called light into being and saw that it was good. This “light” in Hebrew translates to victory, guidance, bearer of deliverance. Then, God separated the light from the darkness, distinguishing it as different, not the same, contradicting.

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The church I attend gave away study guides during the season of Lent. As I scanned through it, one line caught my attention. Apart from light informing the eyes, there is no ability to behold beauty. No ability to behold beauty? If light didn’t exist, if my eyes aren’t open to see, I am unable to behold beauty. From the annual Texas bluebonnets every spring and my dog attempting to catch a lizard, to the kids playing cricket in the streets of India and the hot steam of fresh Colombian coffee. None of those glimpses of beauty can be seen without light informing the eyes. Even at night, there is still some light flickering in the stars and the bugs and the cars that pass by.

This implies that since darkness is the absence of light, that beauty is the presence of light and that which God has created. Therefore, all things in and of the light are God’s divine, beautifully crafted handiwork.

Oh, just breathe and let that rest in your soul for a moment.

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As an English major post-graduation, I was desperate to be with people who read books, analyzed books, and talked about books. So, naturally, I joined a book group. It is filled with ladies from my parents’ church, ranging in ages, ethnicities, and life-stories, all unified by the blood of Christ. The book for June was called Goodbye is Not Forever, and we were blessed to have the author, Amy George, come and share her story with us. Growing up in the Ukraine pre-World War II, Amy’s life was one full of hardship and troubles. She shared how her father was forcefully arrested by the Soviet secret police and sent to Siberia. Without her father to provide, life proved difficult. Before Amy and the rest of her family was taken by the Third Reich and sent to a slave labor camp, she relayed to the group of a time when she went outside after a long, hard winter and soaked up the heat of the day, bringing life to her cold bones and joy to her tiny heart.

From the sunshine I knew there was love out there.”

When Amy said that, I felt like I had walked into a familiar, yet unchartered revelation from God Himself. From the sunshine, she knew love. From a fire-burning, light-emitting ball, she knew of love’s existence. The being of light proved that love is. In the midst of poverty, hardship, near-starvation, and soon-to-be slavery, Amy knew that, because of the light, darkness could not win.

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In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He says to His followers:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. -Matthew 5:14-16

He’s talking to us! He’s telling us, you and me and all other believers, that we are the light of the world. We are the grace-filled. We are the life-givers. We are the love-spreaders. We are the victors. We are the light! In comparison to Hebrew “light” (victory, guidance, bearer of deliverance), the Greek translation of “light” in this context means to shine, make manifest, make known, and the splendor and glory of God. It’s a dual action word. It is something that we do, as well as something we emit. The Spirit has hovered over our lives and granted us the opportunity to carry the light of the world to all who see us. Since we are the light, others will see us. (Remember…light always overcomes darkness.) They will see beauty and God’s craftsmanship, His splendor and glory. And they will want more.

Where is your light? Are you hiding it under a basket? Are you dulling your light to near darkness? Or are you shining forth and breathing life into cold bones, like the sunshine did into Amy? Are you radiating to others the light that speaks of the victory we have in Christ?

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And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. –Revelation 21:23-25

Sick and Frustrated

I’ve quarantined myself the past two days. Summer has come and I suppose it’s time for me to catch a cold. It only makes sense, right? Beautiful sunny weather, an opportunity to work for a few days with some fantastic kiddos, a chance to spend valuable time with my brother…all thwarted by a sore throat, clogged up nose, and pressure-filled head. Oh, and not to mention I leave for Nepal (one of the most hygienic places in the world) in less than two weeks. I love being sick. Said no one…ever.

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My grandparents used to live on a farm in Ohio, and some of my favorite childhood memories are from our times there. A stream of excitement would run through my little body when traveling to the farm that was surrounded by a white, three-foot fence, stepping onto the old, creaky wrap around porch before walking into my grandparents’ house, which was always full of various family members. I remember the waterbed my grandparents slept on, the log fireplace in the living room, and the combination of smoke radiating from dull cigarettes and burning meat on the grill. I loved holding onto the back of the golf cart with my brother and cousins as my Uncle sped around the land with intentions of throwing each of us off. I cherished the time walking around with my Grandpa, checking in on all the horses in Barn One, Barn Two, Barn Three, and having my Grandma teach me how to ride.

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I even remember when I got sick one time on the farm. I’m sure it was a cold similar to the one I have now, except it was actually winter outside. I recall curling up on the couch, facing the fire and getting lost in the flickering flames. My mom, Grandma, and all my aunts were constantly checking in on me to make sure I was doing ok. I can still remember the sucker I received to help lift my spirits: it was red and attached to some sort of mechanism that when I pushed the button, the sucker would rotate!

Even now, my mom has done whatever it takes to make sure I start feeling better as soon as possible. From grocery store runs to making me dinner, she has cared for me like I know she does best. Her compassionate and servant heart has shone bright these past two days. She has definitely made being sick a tad bit better, reassuring me that I will get healthy and she will do whatever she can do make sure that happens.

However, if I am being honest with my heart, I’m beyond frustrated that I’m sick. All I keep thinking is how terrible the timing is. How I need to work this week so I can make some money. How I’ve been striving to build my immune system so it can be strong and healthy when I’m in Nepal and India. I don’t have time to get sick, I say to myself with every sneeze and tissue. My pride had swollen up with the plan I formulated to make some money, to be healthy, and to prepare efficiently and sufficiently. Now, I am forced to live and breathe in defense from the cells attacking my body, knocking me on my heels and catching me off guard of my supposed plan.

Oh, how I’m reminded of the fragility of man. As much as I could have done to prevent getting sick, it’s still going to come if my cells aren’t strong enough to overcome the illness. And spiritually speaking, as much as I can do to prevent getting attacked by the enemy, he is still going to come, regardless of my spiritual preparedness. The more important question is whether I am dependent upon the Spirit prior to being attacked so that we can battle together, or if my pride will get in the way again and drag me down in frustration and defeat. For it is when we trust in the Spirit’s reigning power that the enemy must and will be utterly conquered.

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Even though I’m still not happy that I’m sick, I’m working on my defense mechanisms. I feel weak and wimpy right now, and probably more whiney than I would like to admit. However, I’m slowly crawling out of the hole of frustration and defeat and proclaiming today the power I have in Christ through my weakness. With a little help from DayQuil and orange juice, I will trust that His healing waters will pour forth physically, emotionally, and spiritually, for I am ever so thirsty.

Seeking After the Roadways and Rivers.

Anybody who truly knows me knows that I detest saying goodbye. In an unhealthy way, I turn off all emotions and pretend that I’m not giving one last hug, I’ll hear their voice again, I have no need to record their laugh to memory, or I’m not holding their hand for the last time. I scan these senses to make lasting impressions in my mind so I can always remember, because deep down, I know it’s probably goodbye for a while; praying that it’s not forever.

I comfort others with back rubs and tell them it’s going to be ok. And then when sadness reaches past my eyeballs, the floodgates open and there’s no turning back. My emotions overwhelm me and manifest themselves in such visceral (aka dramatic) ways: my body shakes; migraines arise; I don’t eat and quickly loose weight; my jaw aches from clenching my mouth so tightly; and I even get a sty or two in my eyes from crying so much. Pathetic, I know. I told you it was unhealthy.

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I feel like life is very much a routine of hellos and goodbyes. Saying hello to making new friends, starting new jobs, meeting new people. Hello to lifestyle adjustment, heart realignment, self-evaluation. However, I’ve noticed that usually when a hello happens, a goodbye has preceded it. And typically, the goodbye is a lot harder than the hello. Just as I have an unhealthy way of building up to goodbyes, I also believe that it’s unhealthy to dwell on the goodbye beyond what is necessary. How can I ever walk into the new season of hello when I hold onto the old season of goodbye?

I’m reminded of the words in the Bible that commands followers to lay aside the old self, to be renewed in mind, and to put on the new self. To say goodbye to personal desires, addictions, insecurities, or even good things that keep us from moving forward. To say goodbye to boyfriends until next time, to pour out that last half of liquor down the drain, to tear down the photographs of models and celebrities, or to hug our sister before she hops on the plane. It can seem so easy to turn around to what we said goodbye to, what we agreed we would never do again. Fortunate for us, this isn’t where the story ends and we won’t be running circles forever.

While Isaiah instructs our hearts to “not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past,” he continues with God promising that He “will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? [He] will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” The reason we do go back to the things of the past is because we haven’t renewed our mind and haven’t become aware of the new things God has promised to spring forth. Trust me, I’m walking in this process of transition yet again, right now. Assuredly upon that renewal, we can begin saying hello to the new self, the roadway in the wilderness, and the rivers in the desert.

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I believe that even if goodbyes don’t become easier, and even if we look back and live as our old self, God is eternally gracious to grant us doors full of hellos and renewal ahead if we only choose to say goodbye. Does this mean that we won’t have to say goodbye ever again? No, not at all. Sweet friend, I know how hard goodbyes are. Don’t be shocked by the tenderness of your heart. Yet, how can we say hello if we don’t first say goodbye?

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