Problem is, I didn't see God that way. My mind could not convince my heart that it was true. In my world, God was sometimes light. But most times He was dark.
I used to pray every night as a child, "God, please make my dad stop drinking." And, once in a great while, my dad would come straight home after work instead of first stopping at the bar. We would do something fun as a family. We would talk and laugh and actually enjoy each others' company. The light of God's love would shine brightly.
Then there were all the other nights. Nights I pressed my hands over my ears so I wouldn't hear the drunken rants. Nights I found safety under the bed from the boogeyman that was my father. Nights my pillow was drenched with tears as I pleaded with God to make the insanity stop.
If God was light, why was I seeing only an occasional glimmer?
I've always had an aversion to physics. But, even as a child, I could understand four things that light does:
- It illuminates. It makes things clear and easier to understand.
- It dispels darkness. Every morning, as the sun begins to rise, darkness dissipates.
- It exposes what is hidden. Light helps us find things in the darkness.
- It guides our path. Sunlight, headlights, flashlights--all help us to find our way.
As I pondered this as an adult on one particularly dark day, the light went on. I came to understand that when Jesus refers to Himself as the Light of the world, this is what He is saying:
- I have come to illuminate. The moment Jesus came to earth He was seen as a source of illumination. In heralding Jesus' birth, the Apostle John proclaimed, The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world (Jn. 1:9). Jesus was born to bring clarity into lives of all who believe. If there was one thing I needed as a child and still need as an adult, it's clarity. If I am grow in a trusting relationship with God, I need to be clear on exactly who He is.
- I have come to dispel darkness. Jesus said it Himself, I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness (Jn. 12:46). Jesus came to turn our darkness into day, to dispel the night. The simple truth is, light and dark cannot coexist. That is true not only in relation to physics. It's true in relation to Jesus. I may still experience dark nights of the soul. But no matter how overcast my spirit, God's light still shines brightly above the clouds.
- Jesus came to expose what is hidden. John writes, This is the verdict: light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed (Jn. 3:19-20). When I allowed God's ever-present light to shine in the dark corners of my life, it brought to light the things I had spent much of my life trying to hide: my fears, my insecurities, my resentments, my doubts, my lack of faith. And do you know something? I discovered that even when God knew all my secrets He loved me anyway!
- Jesus came to guide our path. Before He went back to heaven, Jesus stated the obvious--at least in terms of physics: The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going (Jn. 12:35). But He meant for that truth to be applied to our spiritual lives.
But since becoming an adult, I've come to realize that Jesus is more of a candle. Most times, He doesn't shine so brightly that I know exactly where life's journey is taking me. Instead, all He gives me is just enough light for the next step.
Turns out that is all I needed. That is all any of us need. Knowing that the Light of the world is at our side. That He will make things clear in His time. That His light will always shine, whether we see it or not. That He will tenderly expose what we try so hard to hide and will love us anyway. That He will guide us day by day, moment by moment, step by step, on a journey that is guaranteed to have the happiest of endings.