Monday, December 12, 2016

God is Light: Thankful Thoughts for the Christmas Season

Light is so much different than darkness, isn't it? 

Almost more than just its opposite, but distinctly a different thing all together. Light reveals- whereas darkness conceals. Light is something; darkness, on the other hand, is the absence of something. A void. Empty, lost, indirect space. 

Darkness doesn't lead anywhere: it's a sort of directionless vacuum. But light is different. Light leads: it beams, points, shines, guides. Provides direction. Darkness doesn't do that. We never say that darkness guides us, directs us, or points the way. Darkness consumes, clouds; can make things anxious and confusing. 

It is light that illuminates and allows is to go forth.
I mean light as in the physical phenomenon, of course, but you see where the metaphor is going. I also mean it like this: in people. People who are like light carry a truth. It's usually a truth that darkness opposes, or doesn't want to hear- or is, somehow, in some subtle way, ashamed to be a part of.

Light in people allows truth, joy, and the relinquishing of control over others and over situations. Darkness opposes all of that. Darkness in people likes to suppress truth in order to glorify self. It likes to belittle joy in others in order to protect self. It likes to control others, and to control situations, in order to empower self.

A life lived in darkness negatively affects others, of course, but for the person living it it feels like a life of groping around, looking for answers, searching, desperately trying to cling to something, anything, for security. Only light can enter a life of like that- a life characterized by lostness, seeking, need, control- and expose what needs to be uncovered.

Expose, and then heal. Because that's what light does: it changes things forever by exposure of truth.
"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you: that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all." -1 John 1:5

It's an idea that makes me realize a few things, one of which is the importance of seeking God (light itself) in early life. It is our relationship with our Creator that aligns, dictates, and serves the quality of every other relationship in our entire life- and that's powerful, heavy stuff to commit to believing and seeking, but it makes all the difference between a life- and relationships, with self and others- that are characterized by lostness or contentment, plenty or want, lightness or darkness, commitment and growth or disposability and decay.

To the degree that we believe in God's design for us, love for us, hope for us (in life and after); to the degree that we know what we're on earth for; to the degree that we seek Him before all other things in life- it is to that degree that life will be fulfilling, or seem like something's missing.

I'm thankful to know many people my age (and younger, and older) who have taught me what it means to build (or accept, maybe is the more accurate word) a strong self-concept on God's love, to leave the purpose of my life in His hands, and live with the patience- waiting, not rushing- He teaches. 

God is light, and light means exposure- and in a culture that makes deceptiveness and building your own self-concept so easy, it's not always a popular idea. We have the easy choice to hide behind so much in the modern world, but there's heavy truth in the awareness that the human soul needs transparency and authenticity that's only possible not by looking within, but by looking towards. Towards something higher, more eternal, more creative than ourselves. 

It's light itself, not light we think we have, that winds up becoming light in us.
Another thing the idea of darkness and light makes me reflect on is thankfulness for people in my life who have chosen light- and shared it with me when I needed it, when there was more darkness than light in my own life. 

People who have come up along side me in prayer, who early on in my awareness of God (and even before that, in my unawareness, in my darkness) who have shared the Gospel of Christ with me when I had never heard of such a thing, who weren't afraid of my questions, my lostness, my pain. These people are nothing short of blessings.

People who, just in who they were (not in what they did, or what their reputation was), reflected light into my life, and- kindly, softly, patiently- encouraged me to know Christ. Know there's nothing to fear when you're in the light. Darkness loves fear. Like I said, the culture would have you believe that the best way to live is constructing a self-image that looks okay from the outside, and sure, most people will listen to the culture. But God has designed us to live rightly from the inside out, and from there comes the creative flow of a well-lived life. That is our Creator's intention; if you don't believe me, listen to your conscience.

You know when someone comes into your life and brings light with them. For one, they are carrying it around by themselves. It's something they can give to you because they already have it. It comes forth from them- not merely in personality or the ability to smile a lot, but it's part of who they are. It really, actually, has very little to do with 'you,' per say. They themselves already embody it, as a quality. 
It is not always in life what we popularly like to believe: that you attract what you are. That like attracts like. Sometimes, you attract what you are not- and realize later that God was trying to show you something more than you even thought you needed. 

It is not you who is doing the attracting there: it is God who is working, trying to get your attention, to get you to see Him- not just a deeper version of yourself. He works on us in all different ways, and one way is definitely through each other.

Over time, you get to see that it's truly His light in these people He has sent you- that it's not just a person with 'politeness' or 'social formality;' 'trying to be nice,' or 'trying to be wise,' or 'trying to help.' Over time, you see that it's more than that. Light is something Christ-followers give: to those who are kind to them, but also to those who are not. To those who are loyal to them, but also to those who gossip. To those who are friends, but also to those who oppose them. To those who have everything to give, and to those who have nothing.

Consistency of character is different than trying to appear a certain way, which is why it lasts longer. It is more than just niceness: it is also conviction. It is standing for what is not easy to stand for. It is walking in hope and possibility, but also honestly confronting pain and suffering. It's when sound resolution to conflict that arises is just a important living peaceably together. Gentle but necessary addressing of what's difficult. That's how light gets in.

You begin to see that God's light is more than just self-knowledge. It's love: which includes knowledge of others, and it's truth: which includes knowledge of what the human heart needs to optimally work.

True love comes from much more than what we think about ourselves. It comes from what we think about God, from how closely we choose to follow light and let it saturate everything about our life.
In the Christmas season and always, I love to remember how not only we can find light, but how light can find us. The best love meets us right where we are- even if where we are is stuck, lost, confused, or sad- over and over and over again for as many times is necessary for us to move. God's love reveals us- pain, sin, shame, and all- not to expose our horribleness, but to revive with grace the version of ourselves we forgot about. God's love asks, it doesn't force; invites, but doesn't manipulate; allows joy, but doesn't want it superficially.

God's love is light: it goes out and gets the lost, it shines a light, it overcomes darkness, and it redeems- not by asking for perfection, but by entering into the places that are broken.

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