In his August 26 column for “Center Your Week,” Stephen Cook wrote about when his children were younger, and in those moments when they first went to bed, how the darkness that descended on their bedrooms just after [he] turned off the lights was an unsettling experience. Those moments just after the switch is flipped are when the absence of light feels most pronounced.

Staying in the room with our children in the dark, [he] would remind them both that . . . their eyes would adjust and they could begin to see a little better than in the instant after the lights went out. Sometimes, [they] would lie there in the shadows and begin naming the familiar things around the bedroom that [they] could start to see.

“In a dark time, the eye begins to see.”

As he noted, this line from the poet Theodore Roethke speaks well not only to our childhood experiences, but it also says something about our current circumstances.

 

Upon first reading those words from Stephen, I was reminded of the Leonard Cohen tune “Anthem” from 1992 . . .

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

“Anthem,” Leonard Cohen (1992)

And what resonated was “There is a crack, a crack in everything /That’s how the light gets in.” Cohen’s tune is filled with a sense of hope even in a time of despair, much like Roethke’s line that we begin to see even in those moments of darkness.

And then my mind wandered to Mark 15 and the broken Christ on the cross calling out, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” There is no greater moment of darkness and despair than this. We ourselves have prayed these words, a quote from Psalm 22, a lament that takes us into the presence of the dying Christ. And when we do, these words not only take us into the depths, the mystery of Christ’s death, but also into His very brokenness that forges our salvation.

Christian Wiman, a poet and a theologian, writes of that very brokenness:

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why.

Christian Wiman, from Every Riven Thing (2010) 

 

Riven means broken, it means shattered or wounded or unhealed, and I think that notion is very important to me and my notion of God and of religion: that we are broken creatures, very broken creatures. And I don’t think of God as necessarily healing that brokenness as much as participating in it.   – Christian Wiman

 

I like Wiman’s notion of Christ participating in our brokenness: He is beside us in those dark times. Yet, in those dark times, He provides for us a light, a way to see.

14  “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5: 14 – 16 (NRSV)

Eugene Peterson reminds us, in Eat This Book, that, “the biblical way is to tell a story and in the telling invite: ‘Live into this—this is what it looks like to be human in the God-made and God-ruled world; this is what is involved in becoming and maturing as a human being.”

In other words, we are to live into thinking of ourselves as light. What if we allowed this idea of being light to shape us, inform us, touch us, spark something in us, teach us, lead us to living as Christ lived, loving and illuminating our world?

In love, Jesus calls us and invites us to shine. That’s what love does. “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.” That’s how the African-American author Zora Neale Hurston put it in her work, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Jesus calls us to shine in a world where there is plenty of darkness. We are called to help each other see more clearly: to see who we are (as well as who we aren’t), to see our neighbors – truly see them, not our fearful and false projections, but who they really are; to see the world around us, and to see more clearly who God is and what God is calling us to be and to do (and even not do).

It is not enough to be. To do, we must be active: we need to shine; we need to use the light that we have, that we are, to illumine the dark places in the world. We need to bring more light into the world. We need to live into the admonition:

8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?       Micah 6: 8 (KJV)

Recently I read (I wish I could remember where), a completely different perspective on Matthew 11 . . .

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 29 – 30 (NRSV)

This new take was that our task, when we read “our burden is light,” that we are to be the light, to shine the love and grace and compassion of Christ all over our world . . .

Like the gospel song of old, like the words of Matthew 5, we are to let our light shine!

This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

For you and me
Let it shine for you and me
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine for you and me
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine for you and me
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Everywhere yeah
Everywhere I go
I’m gonna let it shine
Everywhere I go
I’m gonna let it shine
Everywhere I go
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

African-American spiritual, harmony by Harmon Clarence Boyer

 

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