the light shines in the darkness

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

This sentence from John 1 has been on replay in my mind the past month. I can’t shake it, and really I don’t want to.

I’m a take it, do it, check it off, move on to the next one type of girl. Or at least, that’s how I tend to operate when I’m trying to keep pace with everyone else.

But every once in a while (and more often I hope), I get the sense that I just need to dwell. That there is more for me in this place, with these words or day or taste or smell or sight.

This verse came to mind the week before Christmas. I was looking through pictures of my trip to India, and came upon one I took at sunset. The sun’s last light is shining across the mountains, dancing across rooftops in the town nestled in the valley below. 

I thought about the darkness that many of JOYN’s artisans have lived through, and how now their stories radiate light and joy. All because light came to them in the midst of their darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

My life radiates light for the same reason. I was darkness, and now I am a child of light. All because light came to me. It shines in my darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

As I’ve been dwelling on this verse the past few weeks, a few thoughts have come to mind:

The author writes that light shines, using present tense. Since the verses prior describe the light as the Word, which is Jesus. John tells us that the Word was with God in the beginning, so we see that light has been with God since the beginning. For all of eternity past, light shines in the darkness. And today, and tomorrow and for all eternity future, light shines in the darkness. It is the very nature of light to do so. It will never not shine in darkness while darkness still exists.

In the same way, the darkness has not overcome it. The darkness has not ever in all its existence up until this point ever overcome the light. And since the light will always shine in the darkness, the darkness has not, is not and will never overcome it. The sun always rises and drowns out the night.

To shine in darkness, the light must go to darkness. It must go to places that are hurt and broken and uncomfortable. The places where evil has a foothold. The light shines in those places and brings hope, healing, redemption and true life. The life of Jesus was spent in those places- healing the broken, and bringing restoration and hope. They were not the easy places to be, but He is the light of the world and it is his very nature to shine light into darkness.

As children of the light, as ambassadors of Christ, as people created in the very nature of God, we are called to be light in darkness as well. We are called to minister to the broken, the hurting, the poor, the fatherless, the widow. We are called to walk into places that evil has claimed and proclaim freedom and love. And we need not be afraid, for the light of life, Jesus, is with us. And the darkness has not, is not and will never overcome. The light has been, is and will be ultimately victorious.

This verse is what I want my life to be about. It could look like loving a hurting co-worker, inviting strangers into your home for a meal, moving to a crime-ridden part of town or speaking truth to a friend who is bound by lies. Regardless of the actual circumstances, I want to live as a child of light, unafraid of the darkness. I want to be a part of God’s plan to restore all things.

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peggy ray guest post: story

While I’m in Colorado this week, I’ve asked a few friends to guest post for me. They are great friends of mine and their words have a huge influence on my life. Hope you enjoy!

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The past few years I have been enthralled by the importance of “story” in society. I’m less and less moved by ideas and arguments and more and more by stories. Because of this I have practiced listening to the life-stories of my friends and family. It’s so beautiful to hear the story of someone you’ve never met and sit in wonder at how his or her life has come together. It is sometimes even more awe-inspiring to hear the story of someone you know very deeply. My best friend and I have known each other since 7th grade but our senior year of college we sat down and narrated our lives to one-another. It was incredible to unite my experience of her life with her own.

Another journey I have been on is one to understand the Bible. I have been reading this book just about every day since I learned to read and yet I haven’t read all of it. One reason for this is my lack of discipline. While on one hand I have read the Harry Potter 7 book series multiple times (at least the first 5 books), this one book I could never master. The other reason is that I just had difficulty reading and understanding the Bible. It all seemed so random and irrelevant to me. But in recent years I have begun to see the story of the Bible bleeding through each line. The interesting thing is the storyline of the Bible is something I have been taught from a young age, but I never saw it as a story. As I have studied and read the different stories I have seen the hundreds of characters, places and happenings weave themselves into one overarching narrative that tells the story of God and his creation.

The themes of creation, rebellion, redemption and restoration intertwine to form the narrative of Scripture using a myriad of other stories. I love getting to know God through stories rather than simply lists of his attributes, which have never really moved me. So many times I have heard someone list off how good God is: he is good, great, he is loving, he is kind, he is wonderful, mighty, tender… All this is great but it never gave me the goosebumps I felt I was expected to have. Slowly getting acquainted with God through reading about his dealings with people since the beginning of time is far more satisfying to me. There is a simplicity to it that shows itself to be genuine.

The story the Bible tells is true. It is the true rendition of the world and the God who made it. But I must admit there are many days when I look around or search my own heart and the story of a loving God who made me and died for me seems irrelevant and disconnected from reality. But this is where our faith comes in. Though sometimes the most beautiful story of all time, the gospel, doesn’t seem to jive with reality; it is in fact more real than reality.

I think of it like the movie Big Fish. The whole movie the father is telling these elaborate stories the son can’t stand because they are not real. We, the audience can see these beautiful fairy tales happening before our eyes and we fall in love with the father as he tells the story of his life. At the very end of the movie they are at the father’s deathbed and he asks his son to tell him how it happens, “Tell me how I’ll go,” he says. The son slowly but surely begins to tell his father the end of his life, the finale of his story. You can see it in his eyes that for the first time he believes the story of his father’s life is true. As the son tells his father’s story you see that he finally believes what his father always knew; that the story is more real than reality.  The story of God is hard to believe, it is so other than our reality and yet it truly is more real than reality. God is real and he loves us. His story is written in the Bible, begging for us to read and take part in the grand theater of life.

*Peggy currently lives in St. Louis where she attends Covenant Theological Seminary. You can see that she loves story. She also loves music. It’s the way to her heart, so if you’d like to get to know Peggy visit her music blog Arbitrary Passions