I kindle to light (pun intended)–bright sunshine, the liminal light of a candle, twinkly lights on a Christmas tree, and I even like flashlights. My appreciation for flashlights increased during a recent visit to one of our children’s families. During the first night, I groped my way through a dark hallway to the bathroom, and I stepped onto some stray legos! Let’s just say the words that escaped my mouth are not a part of my day-to-day vocabulary. The next time I got up during the night I used my phone’s flashlight app to light my way. That memory came back to me this past week as I’ve contemplated the many scriptures in the daily readings that drew our attention to a theme of light. I, like the Israelites, can lose myself in groping around in a conjured darkness of my mind or emotion. Have you been there, too? You know what I’m getting at: a spiritual night falls, and you keep stepping on stray pieces of regret or careless words that linger from time already passed. St. John wrote:
“God is light, and in him, there is no darkness at all…walk in the light.”
I John 1
The Light that God sheds on us abides no darkness; he desires that we walk in his Light. Walking forward rather than stumbling around in our darkened understanding requires increased faith that God’s Light became flesh and lived in the darkness with us. Walking forward requires remembering that the LORD has walked the path before us, dazzling this dark world with hope, mercy, and grace. Jesus absorbed all the darkness of the world for us so that his Light would banish our darkness, lightening our way and enlightening our hearts and minds! Much more than that flashlight did for me in a darkened hallway.
Yesterday we celebrated The Feast of the Epiphany, which was the manifestation of The Light of the World, Jesus Christ, to the magi. Great timing! Niggling thoughts about the purpose of life tend to crowd into this time of year as we cross the threshold of a new year. Those thoughts may be caused by the anticipation of what might be ahead of us or what is behind us. This yearly exercise of self-examination needs a light that is not of this world; we need a new Light; so to speak. We need the Light of the World to grant us the peace of mind that he alone can give. A peace that is enduring and stable no matter what day of the calendar year it may be. St. John wrote to The Early Church:
“Beloved, I am writing you a new commandment to you, which holds true in him and among you, for the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining…remain in the light“
I John 2
That small word, “remain,” is the kindling for the light God alone gives in every moment that passes. Do you have moments where the thoughts of the past and future threaten to extinguish trust in the true Light of Life? You may even be thinking those thoughts right now as you look at the calendar for 2022.
I came across a phrase a while back, “Don’t fetch fears.” As I learn to “remain” with the LORD present in each moment, I recognize how pointless it is to fetch fears about the unknown. I can picture the times when one of our children would run into my arms out of fear of something; I didn’t pooh-pooh their fear because I knew how fear felt. No, I would soothe them with a back rub and quietly hold them while their heartbeat slowed and their body relaxed into my arms. The heavenly Father is in the present with us, but we, like children, can be held captive by our fears when we fetch all kinds of what-ifs, can’t we? I imagine that the LORD responds to me in the same way as I did to my children’s fears. Shhhhh. Remain here in my arms, dear daughter.
Here’s another phrase I came across that assists me in learning to remain present to the LORD. “Don’t stumble on things behind you.” I’ve wasted many moments consumed by the past; something I said or didn’t say, or something that I did or didn’t do, or something that happened or didn’t happen to me. Even great memories from the past can cause me to stumble. Years ago, we moved from one part of the country to another. We left behind my dream home, cherished friendships, and a great climate that didn’t include arctic winters. The transition was hard on me for a lot of reasons. I wasted many moments thinking about what was behind me instead of what could be in the present. I was stumbling around with self-pity, anger, and resentment about why the LORD had changed things so dramatically for us. Words from an oracle of Jeremiah’s tiptoed into my snagged emotions as I prayed one day, which changed my perspective entirely!
Thus says the Lord:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
When I allowed myself to look at the ancient paths God walked with his people in the Old Testament, sunshine broke into my restless emotions because I realized that the good way, the good life, that God grants is not about where I live or how comfy my life is. The rest my soul desired settled in once I stopped stumbling on things behind me.
I’m wondering Friend if you share some of my struggles? As the dawn of the new year is breaking open before us, are you groping your way through emotional or spiritual darkness, stepping on the sharp edges of an untended life?
Jesus, true light, illumine our darkness.
Is fetching fears a pass-time for you? When we’re preoccupied with the “what ifs” of life, so consumed by those thoughts that we even worship them with our unconscious and conscious thoughts, we only need to invoke the Holy Name of Jesus into our thoughts, and he will pierce our self-imposed darkness.
Jesus, God of peace, fill us with your peace.
Do you find yourself spending more time looking back or looking ahead as a way to distract you from where you are? The disordered attachment to what was or what might be cast a shadow over the present. That’s not where Jesus has fixed his gaze; why do we?
Jesus, our way and our life, fix our gaze on You.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end.