Our lenten scriptures at church are taking us through the Gospel of John. The phrase, "Who is Jesus?" provides our framework as we're reading through passages in which Jesus often says, "I am..."
Last week we looked at Jesus' saying, "I am the Bread of Life." Jesus is nourishment.
Tonight's passage was John 8:12. "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life'” (NIV).
As a child--as with most children--I wasn't always the fondest of darkness. My imagination would go to places of fear. Mostly because of the unknown in the darkness. You can't see what's there. I could imagine things being there weren't even real.
I'm going to admit that even as an adult that sometimes happens still. Last fall I was out camping by myself in a state forest. No one else was around me within several campsites. I was sitting around the campfire in the dark. I had been doing some reading and journaling and my lantern's batteries were dying. Wolves had been howling off in the distance. When I heard a noise that sounded like it was right next to me, I freaked out. It was probably a squirrel or a raccoon. It was probably some distance from me. But at the moment, in my mind, a wolf was right there next to me. When I am alone the darkness is intensified.
Of course darkness is also a place of fun. As I grew older I enjoyed playing games like Ghosts in the Graveyard, Hide and Seek, or Sardines. The darkness hides and conceals which are useful for some of those games.
Darkness induces blindness--at least temporarily until one's eyes adjust. Darkness hides; it hides you from being seen and it hides other things from being seen by you. Darkness is a place of fear, lies, shame, fear, and death. Darkness happens when a light source is taken away. It happens when something comes between you and the light. Darkness happens when you distance yourself from the light.
Light illuminates. It expels the darkness. Lights gives life--without it nothing could grow. In the light we can see. Light shows what is real, what is true. It exposes and frees.
The darkness is a place where I say, "I am not good enough." "I am not a good enough husband." "I am not successful enough." "I am not..."
Jesus says, "I am the Light of the World." "I am life." "I am truth." "I am the way."
In Jesus' words and claims we find that there is grace in the light. As it exposes what was in darkness it helps us see the truth.We discover that though we are sinners, we are saved. Though we sometimes go astray, we have a Father who always welcomes us back with wide-open loving arms.
The hard part of what Jesus says is, "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness." I feel like that means that there shouldn't be any darkness in my life when I follow Him. And I know there is. I know there are still dark areas in my soul. And I can choose to live in the shame of that darkness or to ask the light to come pouring in and illuminate those areas.
But it's not easy. As we already discussed, darkness is a place of fear. Though we want the light, we are also afraid of the things it might expose. At least I am. But that's shame and fear talking. Those things don't exist in the light. The light is a place of truth, grace, and life.
So I cautiously and sometimes hesitantly pray that the light will continue to expel the darkness and shine on those areas in my life that may still try to hide in darkness like a game of Ghosts in the Graveyard.
But after coming through a long, dreary winter, I am excited about the longer daylight hours that come with spring. I am excited about the warmer temperatures. I know that light is good. So shine on, Jesus. Shine on in my life. Just maybe not all at once...I may need time for my eyes to adjust.