Sunday, December 20, 2015

in the darkness

In the light of the holidays it can feel isolating to be covered in darkness. But it's not only this time of year that it's difficult to breathe under the weight of happiness and good news all around. Engagements, marriages, babies, new jobs, new houses - it can feel like a merry-go-round. The merry that goes round and round but never stops where you're standing long enough for you to get on the ride for yourself. When everyone else's happy invades your hurt and it's painful to just be.

I've spent a lot of time mesmerized by scriptures about light and darkness. To me it has always felt like a black and white scenario. One or the other. Darkness and light cannot coexist. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Separate entities.

But then something happened that opened my eyes. A scripture that I've read dozens of times jumped off the pages into my heart and God spoke to me. The first chapter of the entire bible, in the book of Genesis, brought a new understanding into my heart. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters. This had me nodding my head in the parallels of my life to the creation of the world. The earth was formless and empty. Another version says it was formless and void. I sure feel that way a lot lately. Darkness was over the surface of the deep. That's where it's been lingering in my life. Not on the small day to day things, but the deep matters of my life. That's where darkness has resided. What blew me away? God hovers over the waters. When the earth was first made there was nothing deeper than the water. It was all water - God does not separate the water from land and sky until the next few days. So when I stop and really try to picture that it just blows my mind away. That on a formless and empty deep darkness, God hovered over. Covering the darkness with Himself. God of Light covered the darkness. In the beginning light covered darkness. Knowing God is immutable and never changing tells me that He still covers the darkness today. He will do this until the end of time. Does that bring you joy like it does for me?

The scripture then continues with it's awe-filled self, And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. Did you catch that? Because I never did before. But this time, it practically held me down asking for my attention. First God made light. Then He saw that it was good. Then after these things He separated the light from the darkness. Before God separated the two, they co-existed. Light and dark. Together. Mixed up. Which is how they are in my life. Not as one or the other, but together. As if the light is Gods grace for the tough days. I praise Him for every little glimmer. Every text, email or phone call. Every song as a reminder. Each smile from a stranger or hug from a friend. The light that mixes in with my darkness. I think of when I'm baking and I mix all the dry ingredients together and separating them would be impossible. But God does the impossible. He separates two entities that once were one and gives us the two so that we can use it as a tool to measure day from night, seasons, signs, and years.

And, God said, 'Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light to the earth.' And it was so. God made two great lights - the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light to the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.

God never says that darkness is bad. But He does go to great extremes to make sure we always have a good light in the darkness. Whether it's the moon or the stars. There's always a small glimmer of light twinkling out from behind the curtain of darkness. Do you know what is the greatest part about all of this? Even on the stormiest nights, we can be sure that behind the clouds the stars are still shining and the moon is still bright. It's all about our perception. God is the same way. Even on our darkest nights, when the walls are closing in and there doesn't appear to be one good thing going right and the world feels like it's falling apart one frayed thread at a time, God is still there over it all. Even when we can't see Him. Just as certain as we can be that the stars and moon and even the sun are still there, so we can think of God. God gave the light to govern the day and the night. The storms come and they linger often times longer than we expected and longer than we like. But above it all is a Greater Light still.

In the book of Isaiah, it talks about God's mercies for Israel and foretells of the coming Messiah. The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of His people and heals the wounds He inflicted. I keep holding fast to this promise. One day this darkness will seem like a distant memory. One day the blessings will be so great that everything will be brighter. I long for that day.

Here, in the beginning of the world, begins a foretelling of the story of the coming Messiah. The one who truly governs day and night. The one who will cast out all our darkness, sorrows, heartache and pain. Light, born in the darkness and then set apart. Born into the dark, yucky places where we lay down. The place where we fall to our knees in utter disbelief that a world could be so cold, that hearts could be so cruel and goodness is sometimes hard to find. The place where we throw up our hands and surrender to God's plan because we are out of ideas and out on our own. The place where isolation unexpectedly meets a Savior. In the darkest, most unusual place, a King was born. A light shined in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not. He did not come in through a spot light. He wasn't featured on the news for 72 hours while the world awaited His arrival. No one had televisions on in their workplace awaiting the first sight of this newborn baby. Many didn't even know He was coming, not at this exact time. He just sneaks in under the radar.

This weekend my friend gave me a Christmas gift. She handmade me a nativity set. The timing of it couldn't have been more perfect. The night before I cried out and literally felt the hope sink down in me as I desperately sought to sit at the feet of the nativity at a local church only to discover the lights had been turned out. My friend gave me this gift and I unwrapped each member of the nativity set. Once everyone was positioned in their place she turned off all the lights. I wasn't sure what she was going to do and then she flipped a switch and all the stars lit up in the nativity! This is exactly how God works. He comes to us on a dark quiet night so that we can see how great His light really is. Those who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.

Last weekend there was a meteor shower. On my way home as I was crying and praying to God I saw a star fall right out of the sky in front of me. As a sign to mark a sacred time... For a time such as this. This darkness is sacred, an opportunity to see God do His biggest work but darkness does not come to stay. Even when it lingers I can be sure that God is hovering over it all and at just the right moment He will separate the darkness from the light and I will be able to see everything so clearly in the light of day. In the coming of Christmas, this is my advent. This is my hope, peace, joy and love. The advent that lasts all year. The assurance that I have a Savior who has been sent to be a light for me and for all those with broken hearts. To all those who find themselves crying out for hope. Desperately clinging on to each new sliver of light as if it might be the only portion they have for a while. One day our clouds will break and the sun will shine bright. Then we will sing praise for The Mighty Lord has done great things for us. Even before we see it, let's rejoice. Because we are not a hopeless people. We have hope. We have a Savior who came into this world to be our light in the darkest seasons of our life.