This Little Light of Mine

The theme of light and dark is fascinating to me; in photography, in art, and also in myself. I like looking through photography magazines,and even at my ordinary surroundings, and seeing how the darkness brings depth and how the light brings meaning. If you  look down at the folds of the fabric you’re wearing this very minute, the contrast is easy to see in the mountains and valleys in the landscape of your dress. I think that one reason black and white photography is timeless and classic is because of its extraordinary ability to bring into sharp focus that interplay and dance of light with shadows.

I suppose one reason this interests me so intensely is because, sometimes, and especially right now, I get the lonesome feeling  of being  a fragile, fluttering candle in a mass amount of darkness.

I like the darkness and sometimes I feel shivers of beauty in it, like on a warm summer evening when the moon hasn’t quite risen and the night is soft and enchanting.  Sometimes I welcome a little sadness ,and whimsy ,and perhaps a hard knock or two, and I come armed with anticiption at the not-knowing of what’s ahead. I get curious about the darkness and don’t mind just a bit of it in my life-not too much,just enough- because it’s unknowable and new and its complexity makes me curious. Surely light shines more dazzlingly where there is the greatest darkness?Surely there are truths in the darkness if only I could crack out their meanings;its types and shadows? Or is it that I just want very much to read into the veil, the story that God is magnificenlty plotting out, using mediums of light and shadow.Am I obsessed with finding my part in the story? Sometimes I think I need a little darkness to make my life meaningful and so, absurdly, I end up dredging some of the nasty muck up on purpose.

Sometimes I really feel like a brave little candle, like the one on our sill right now, that flickers so gently and then always promptly straightens itself back up, shining out into the damp, menacing fog and edging low gloom just outside our bedoom window: my brave little advent light.Today is December 21;the first day of winter, Winter Soltice and, of course, almost Christmas.

Is it accidental that  we celebrate Jesus, the Light of the World, and His entrance onto our dark planet around the same time that we are as far away from the sun as we get? Today is the shortest day of year, containing something like 7 hours, 49 minutes and 42 seconds. -( I haven’t seen a sunset, or maybe not even the sun, for weeks. Even the apartments,twelve stories high or so, not very far away, are nearly  the only sky I see at night. The actual buildings themselves edged out by fog, and only the lighted windows blinking on and off attesting to life out there.

Most of the time I want very much to be a brave light dipping and dancing in the dark. Ridiculously, sometimes I am even fascinated by my own light turning the blackness into gold. How unexpected that God uses darkness to beautify Himself!Would the nativity be so beautiful if it hadn’t been at night? Would I be overjoyed by His birth if I didn’t know about the sin deep in me, my own lustful and greedy master of self rising up and scaring me,the things I find so repulsive in others suddenly showing up in me. Horrors!

I don’t really think so….the craziness and beauty of angels bursting into song over a field of ordinary shepherds and sheep is what Christmas is all about.

So yes, mostly, to me, the darkness is like the chaos theory: interesting. But maybe it’s also keeping me on my toes, waking me up, and keeping me alert and tight like a piano string so that when I am tapped I reverberate my note out into the emptiness.

But then I become overwhelmed. I read a particularly jarring story on the news that comes a bit too close to people I know,or, sometimes, not even that particularly jarring. Everything hurts me.I hear of someone I know who is making a decision that’s most certainly not the best for them or has very low probability of any good outcome. Illnesses seem to be waiting to reach up and net you or a loved one. I have only to look at my own family to feel fear rise up. What’s going to happen? What is the formula here? Are there any answers out there? Is God even interested in a lonely little candle sitting on a sill? What if someone I love dies? In fact, they will die-what then?What can I do as one candle hunkering down against the dark,hurt, and chill that’s rising?Especially when some of that darkness is in myself?

I want to shine- oh, how badly I want to shine! I want to be out doing and saving and serving, but, instead I’m locked into a dark tower of my own making; my fear of failure, fear of not being enough, of being a fool, of not having the right answers, of getting hurt,fear of not doing the right thing,of making things worse. On and on and on until the darkness becomes an ocean, a great towering of long pointing fingers hissing at me “You’re too small, you’re weak, you’re too afraid,you’re powerless, if we washed you clean away know one would ever miss you. You’ll never be any good, you’re a drag.You’ll never fit in anywhere.” My little flame cowers and dims and the night creeps in and threads cold arms around my waist and I tremble and then find that I must spring up, lunging for air, like a suffocating creature.

That is us. Waiting for Chistmas. This is our truth.

   “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” Romans 8:22

I am a helpless little minion full of darkness reaching out to help other minions full of darkness.Stumbling, addicted to my self, pretending that I know how things ought to be done. Sometimes I think I know how to run the world;which president should be elected, what’s wrong with this or that institution, that family, this culture, that way of thinking. Sometimes we run smack into each other in our attempts to help out.I want to change the world but I don’t know even know my own next step; to go or to stay, to tough it out or to let go? Perhaps I’m deceived and don’t know it?

Then I look down at my wrist. This other truer truth( is that possible?Having something be more true than true?)

The truth is that I am wearing the wrong glasses.I have been perscribed the wrong lens and I am stumbling about in a fog of my own reasoning;nearsighted.

From time to time I draw a small cross on my wrist when I feel especially the need for a new world view; a more true world view. A view that looks up and out and right on to the cross and what hung there for me.

The realization that even on this very darkest day of this strange and dark year that Light is coming- has come! And indeed, the darkness is made warm and inviting by the Light that is coming to rule the world! The Light of Lights!He came just for me, to light my little flame and draw me into His heat.

The Baby has hurtled through space and time and shattered the  layers of greed and self protection and the hiding in lies and shame that I used to think would keep me safe and happy . He grew up and sat on a mountain and plainly told us that happiness is not in knowing the answers, it is not in being noticed, it’s not in being influential,it’s definitely not in stockpiling blessings (“Blessed are the poor in Spirit”), or in grasping, fighting for the right to my opinion.But happiness is found in Love.

Happiness is found in following my Beloved into the darkness and into His enourmous love that covers  so much thought and habit and transformative ways of thinking, art, and  ways to go about a simple life that I will never be at an end in glorying in new discoveries.(“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled“-my emphasis ).So much to explore!

Blessed are they who give up everything in the pursuit of the One who became so unprotected and without a shell,open and ready to serve His own blood,for they don’t need anything but Christ; they begin receiving the Kingdom of Heaven  right now.

I wrote this piece on Monday,the 21st, but I didn’t have the time to edit or polish it until Tuesday and Wednesday.So here it is, a few days late, and with it, this beautiful piece of scripture  from The Message Bible, the end of Romans, chapter 8:

“Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing,not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:                  They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.               None of this fazes us because God loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing-nothing living or dead, angelic  or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable- absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

Merry Christmas!