Monday, January 9, 2012

Both Darkness and Light

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface.  Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.  And God saw that it was good.  Then he separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light "day" and the darkness "night."  Together these made up one day.   -- Gen. 1:1-5

Reading these words yesterday after all my thoughts lately of "wisdom" and "seeing the light", I gleaned more from them than I have ever done before.

There is darkness in the beginning.  It is a given, the given, even before God speaks.  The first thing God adds is light.  He adds the light to the darkness, and calls it "good."  Then he separates the light from the darkness.  There is no sense of one being better than another.  Together, it is good.  When God created the light, he did not completely blot out the darkness, he only made each separate. 

Yesterday in church we sang a song that spoke of this very thing:  "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light."  The refrain is, "In him there is no darkness at all; the night and the day are both alike."  In our world, are darkness and light separate, but equal?  Are they equally important?  I wonder.

We think of the darkness as something bad, to be avoided at all costs.  Socrates, or rather Plato, equated light with the truth, and darkness with illusion or ignorance.  Other people, like Marianne Williamson, think of the darkness as fear.  Many people think of the light as love.  People seek after the light of truth, of love, of perfection.  We want to escape the darkness of illusion and fear.  We are dissatisfied if, or when, we fail to attain these goals.  And so, we are dissatisfied most of the time.

But there can never be only light and no dark.  Just as there can never be only dark and no light. There has to be both.

I tried explaining this to my children once.  If they always got whatever they wanted, even if what they wanted was good for them, would they appreciate it?  For example, suppose the one you loved, reciprocated your love automatically.  Would it mean as much?  If there was no alternative, would love even bring joy once obtained? 

I don't think so.  We only long for that which we do not have.  If all we had was light, we would not long for more light; we would long for a bit of shade, some darkness even.  There has to be the possibility of not-love, for love to be appreciated.  There has to be choice.  And so, there is risk.  To love is better than not to love, but we only understand this because we are allowed to experience what is not love.  Only in the darkness can we understand the true glory of the light. 

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world."  (John 8:12)  As I wrote in a previous posting, Jesus did not say that he comes to tell people about the light, or to show them where the light is, or even carry the light.  He is the light. ("Wisdom", Jan. 1, 2012).  Jesus does not transform us into perfect people, always happy, so that he can love us.  He loves us fully, recognizing our darkness, our flaws and imperfections, and leads us to greater happiness.  That is the Good News.  Jesus, the light incarnate, God incarnate, comes to us, where we are.  And brings us the light of his love, God's love.  God's redeeming, transforming love.  The greater the darkness to which he comes, the greater the miracle of his love. 

I read today in " 'I Thirst' ", by Stephen Cottrell, sentiments which echo these thoughts.  Cottrell writes, "Because of him [Jesus] our whole understanding of God and of God's involvement with the world, is completely changed.  ... He is right alongside us, holding our hand when the pain is at its worst and leading the way, the only glimmer of light when everything else is lost and dark.  ... Jesus doesn't just show us love; he isn't just loving; he is love, because he is God, sharing our humanity, drawing us to himself and through him to the Father, and doing this all by love. ... He heals the sick, he forgives those trapped in sin, he restores the outcast to life in the community, he feeds the hungry, and he speaks words of hope and challenge.  He shows us a new way of living.  He demonstrates a glorious and liberating humanity."  (pg. 23-24)   Love from God is a given, the given, if we chose it. 

This new way of living that Jesus show us, the way to freedom, is God's way of living.  It is the way of choosing love over not-love, to be a light in the midst of darkness, to love despite imperfections, despite disease, despite poverty, despite approaching death, despite being outcast, despite sin.  And in living this way, we find joy. 

Do I take the light of my love into the darkness?  Do I love unconditionally?  Or do I love only the light?  Only the perfect?  Do I take the same risks that God takes?

Dear God, you are the Great Lover, the Great Redeemer, the Great Healer.  Please teach me how to love as you love, in the darkness and the light.  Always, Pam


Pamela Keane said...

Doug said,
Ok, time for me to catch up. A couple of blogs ago you posted about Socrates being punished for questioning. That kinda hit home but not in a faith sense but rather a political sense. Many of my friends are talk show "followers" and take for fact what is often opinion without factual support. If I try to share the facts with them (and of course I always do), I get looked at like I have 4 eyes and horns. It always surprises me that so many intelligent people prefer to accept the opinion (which is often a criticism of something or someone)rather than doing a little investigation of their own into the actual facts.
And where were you last week? We talked about the light and darkness at bible study. I was confused. God said light was good but said nothing about darkness so I took that to mean darkness was bad. Oh woe, there it is, negative thinking creeping in again. In the first paragraph on your recent blog you allowed me to see the light or should I say darkness for something other than bad. It jumped off the page at me. I needed that interpretation. Thanks.

Pamela Keane said...

Thanks for the comments, Doug. (When I went to post it, I accidentally clicked on the wrong link and sent it to some unknown and irretrievable location. Luckily, I can still copy and past.)

I went skiing with the kids last week. I was sorry to miss the Bible Study, too.

I too saw a significant link between what I was thinking and the desirability of questioning, especially as the Living the Questions study is beginning again. It is always good to question, even if your questions lead you back to where you started!

All the best, and see you tonight!