I’m not a fan of bright lights. Sunglasses are a necessity to my everyday existence and you can ask my husband about my compulsive habit of turning off every light in the house (especially when people are still in the rooms). Fluorescent-ly lit areas and non-dimmable fixtures are my kryptonite.
I’m also not a fan of the dentist. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like our dentist as a person – he’s a great guy – but the idea of walking into that office, laying back in a chair, and having a bright light pointed right at my face, exposing the dark places of my mouth to full examination is never something I look forward to. And thanks to the combination of my genetically cavity-prone teeth, a lifetime of inhaled asthma medication and allergy-induced mouth-breathing, and, of course, a refusal to cut sugar out of my diet – the diagnosis is rarely good news.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been sharing with you my journey of moving from an every-once-in-a-while, when-it-was-necessary Bible reader to a daily-committed, whatever-it-takes student of the Word. It began with a decision to say “Yes” to God and was followed by a realization that a “Yes” to God always means a “No” to other things.
Unfortunately, part three is one you probably don’t want to hear about. You can consider this my official warning that you may not want to continue reading this post – because what happened after I said “yes” to God and “no” to the world was not necessarily pretty.
During my freshman year of college, I was on an incredible spiritual “high”. I had chosen Jesus, given my life to serving Him and now I was fired up and ready to go! I couldn’t wait to see how He was going to grow me and change me and use me to lead others to Him! It (I) was going to be awesome!
The chorus of my favorite song during that time went like this:
“I wanna be in the light
As You are in the light
I wanna shine like the stars
In the heavens”*
In my mind, my time of being “in the light” was coming. Sure, I struggled to obey God fully then, but if I kept following Jesus, He was going to fix all that! There was a day looming on the horizon when I would get it all together and be living life in God’s light – and because of my obedience, other people would see the light and come to know Jesus! My future was SO bright.
It wasn’t until the spring of 2014, though, that I understood what this song (and the verse the songwriters were referencing – 1 John 1:7) was actually talking about.
When I first made my commitment to consistently spending time in God’s Word, I thought my time “in the light” was finally coming. I was finally going to get it all together! But what I didn’t know was that being “in the light” was less like basking in the rays of the warm sun on a gorgeous day at the beach – and more like walking into the dentist’s office for a check-up.
When I started engaging my heart and mind with God’s words, I was willingly walking into His office, laying back in the chair, and letting Him shine His bright light into the dark places of my soul. And the report wasn’t good. It turned out the decay of my sin ran deeper to the roots of my being than I had ever imagined – and almost 20 years after accepting Christ, though some of my surface ‘cavities’ had been filled, I was still as much in need of a Savior as I was then – maybe even more.
The word of God is a bright light. It reveals the splendor of His holiness and the radiance of His absolute purity. When you turn to face that light, exposing yourself to its beams, you can’t help but see yourself for who you really are. You can’t help but become increasingly aware of the self-protective and self-indulgent nature of your thoughts and actions (see Romans 7:18), the subtle (or not so subtle) misplacement of the desires of your heart (see Jeremiah 17:9), and the utter lack of trust in God that’s buried underneath it all (see the entire book of Genesis – or actually the entire Old Testament – or wait, yeah, it just keeps going…). Because of Jesus our sin is forgiven, but we must become aware of the fullness of our sin in order to truly understand why this grace is so amazing!
I’m cringing because in less than two weeks the appointed day will come when those two teeth that have been on my dentist’s ‘watch list’ for a couple years will finally have the decay drilled out of them and get their fillings. It took me a month just to get up the guts to make the appointment and now the doom is officially impending.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (4:12) Submitting yourself to daily appointments in the Word is like signing up for surgery. My sin is forgiven, but that doesn’t mean the Doctor is going to just brush it off and allow it to continue to hurt me and hurt others – He’s gonna go to work. Sure, I could try ignore or deny it, but eventually the pain would overtake me. I need this surgery – I need Him to do His work and replace the decay with the filling of His presence, His love, and His healing!
When I read this passage now, I see it in a totally different light – and maybe you will, too (especially now that I’ve equated it to going to the dentist! Yikes!)
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:5-9)
I wanna be in the light, not because it’s where some perfectly obedient future version of me is, but because the God of steadfast love and mercy is there. I wanna be in His bright light, because that’s where I see the truth of who I really am – and where who I really am can be changed by Him.
*”In the Light” by Charlie Peacock/Toby McKeehan (DC Talk), 1995