“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (John 3:19-21, NIV)
When I was 12 or 13 I was at the Minnesota State Fair with my family and at the end of the day, after all the butter sculptures, Ferris wheel rides and food on a stick, I still had three tickets left. I saw the Haunted House cost three tickets and asked if any of my family wanted to join me. Seeing no takers, I went into the 20-minute, four story, terrifying lapse in judgment that was this Haunted House. I hated every minute of it. It was terrifying, things popping out at you from every angle, lights flashing only to give you a distinct awareness of how dark it really was, music blasting and the man in front of me laughing at every scream that managed to pass my lips.
I realized later that I was always a little fascinated by what claimed to be in the dark but actually venturing into it scared the wits out of me. The thing is, the dark held a power over me because it dictated what I could and could not see, it made me believe things were there that weren’t and it distracted me from terror right in front of me. However, I am absolutely sure if the lights were on, the music was off and the light of day shone into that house, I would laugh at the absurdity of it all. The grotesque props and twisted goblin masks wouldn’t have frightened me if they had tried. It doesn’t mean the house would have been magically cleaned up by turning on the lights but the fear would have been removed. That’s the thing about darkness, when you turn on the light, what you find may not be pretty but at least it’s no longer dark.
The Bible consistently talks about God being light into darkness. In Job 12:22, Job reminds his colleagues that God is a master of powers that seem bigger than us, “He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light.” Also, darkness is considered the gravest of punishments as in Matthew 8 when Jesus heals the servant of the centurion and lets people know he is the way into the Kingdom of God, but for the subjects who see him and don’t follow, then “[the subjects] will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
And then in John 3, Jesus lays it out plain as day. He tells us God loved the world he created and the people in it so much that he sent His only Son to die. He says that He didn’t come into the world to condemn it but to save it. And then he reveals the truth about the rest of us, we live in the dark because we are afraid that what we hide there will be exposed.
Often we as Christians “magic-ify” the process of shining light into darkness as if shining the light will clean up the darkest corners faster than Mary Poppins can snap her fingers. But too often, people who have had the courage to shine the light of God into the dark corners are ostracized, judged, condemned and demeaned by those who are selling the light. So we stay hidden, in love with dark, because we think then we can control what people can and cannot see, but then we find that the darkness controls us. It manifests our fears, it magnifies our insecurities and it whispers that no one will understand, no one will forgive us and we could never clean up the mess it is hiding.
But that was Jesus’ point. John 3:21 says “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” It’s not as if God can’t see what is in the dark, but He offers the freedom of letting you know he saw what you did and John 3:16-17 still applies to you.
There is remarkable freedom when you can confess a secret you’ve been hiding and trying desperately to keep in the dark. All of a sudden the power that the darkness held no longer exists and most often you realize that what seemed huge and scary in the dark seems somehow smaller and easier to reconcile in the light of day.
When God spoke light into the darkness, his work wasn’t done after that moment. When Jesus was born, a great light entered the world but his sacrifice wasn’t finished. When we shine light into our fear, into our dark, the work isn’t finished. In fact our work and God’s work has just begun. But no matter what how ugly the things are that the light shines on are, at least they are no longer dark. Not to mention, the God who created light is not afraid of your dark.
Ali can be reached via email here.