Light it Up
I read this story the other day, and it made me giggle. Yes. I giggle.
At any rate, there were three pastors from the same small town who would often gather to go fishing. After a year or so of fishing together and engaging in mostly small talk about life and ministry, they agreed to begin going deeper in their relationship by confessing some of their shortcomings so that they could begin praying for each other. The first pastor confessed that he habitually drove to a neighboring town on his day off to go to the dog track where he would bet fairly large sums of money. The second pastor reluctantly admitted that he would go to the local beach in their town so that he could watch all of the women in their bathing suits. There was a long pause while the third pastor sat silently in the boat. "Go ahead," the first pastor said, "you can share." "Well," the third pastor said, "I really need your prayers, brothers. I am a hopeless and incurable gossip."
I am aware that it is a lame joke. I like it nonetheless. And I like it so much that I plan on using it at the beginning of my sermon on Sunday. So there.
We all have secrets. Some of them are deep and painful. I also think that most of us struggle with the fear of being found out, of being exposed for who we really are. This is why we put on a show, mask our true feelings and try to hide our pain, our insecurity, our transgressions from the world.
And nothing hides our secrets like darkness.
When I was a little kid, I was afraid of the dark. I wanted as much light as possible in the room where I slept. Darkness was full of shadows and imaginary boogey men. I wasn't for that.
Then I grew up enough to figure out that I could get away with a lot more in the dark than in the broad light of day. If I wanted to keep a secret, steal a smoke, listen to music that I wasn't supposed to listen to... Darkness was the best place to make all of that happen.
I started thinking about all of the ways that we try to hide what we do under cover of darkness.
Did you ever notice that there are never any windows in Adult Video stores? Seriously. Most of them don't even have parking lots out front. I remember this Adult store in Tallahassee, Florida that was not too far from the church I served. You couldn't even see the cars that were parked there because the parking lot was blocked from view and the entrance to the store was at the back of the building. And there were no windows.
Strip clubs don't have windows either. And most of them don't really start to do business until nightfall.... just like a lot of other things.
People prefer to gamble in dimly lit rooms.
When I was a teenager, I went to a birthday party for a girl in my school. There was dancing at the party, which meant excommunication, anathema or worse for those of us brought up in the Baptist church if we were caught. The lights were low in the room that night, I remember.
We got found out, of course. Someone ratted us out and the girl I was dating at the time was forced to break up with me because I danced too close to her in the dark.
I heard a really awful and sad story recently. A guy took a gym bag full of guns into his gym. He shot and killed three women in an aerobics room, injured quite a few more and then shot himself.
Before he began shooting, he turned off the lights.
I thought about why he did that. It couldn't have been that he wanted to strike fear into the hearts of his victims. It would have been more fearful for them to see what was happening. I think he turned the lights off so that he wouldn't have to see their faces. The darkness made it seem less real, less like they were really human beings.
The problem with darkness is that it doesn't make what we try to cover in it less real.
I was reading something that the Apostle Paul wrote in one of his many letters that make up the New Testament. He was writing to Christians in the early Church and he told them, "for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord... live as children of light."
Here's the cool part of that whole verse. Paul doesn't say, you were living in darkness, and are now living in the light. although that would have worked. There are other passages of Scripture where the authors say things just like that.
But that's not what Paul said.
He said "You were darkness, now you are light."
Before he said that, Paul listed a whole bunch of things that identify those who are darkness. They live hedonistic ives in the pursuit of porneia (where we get the word pornography)--selfish, sexual fulfilment, in other words. They are also free with the kind of speech that is demeaning and unbecoming. Paul said that those who are darkness are filled with pleonexia--an inordinate desire of riches or advantage. In other words, they are greedy and self-centered, grasping for power, control, wealth and security at all costs.
There's something about these kinds of people that we can't seem to put our finger on when we are with them. They might be good at hiding their real selves in the grey of shadows, but sooner or later we begin to seem glimpses of the real darkness beneath the surface.
And then Paul goes on to say that people of light have a certain quality about them. They are filled with agathosune (generosity of spirit), dikaiosune (giving to both men and to God what they are due) and aletheia (truth--not the kind of truth that is known but truth that is done).
In other words, they are the kinds of people that you like to be around. These are the kinds of people who are filled with the kind of joy that only a generous spirit can bring. These are the kinds of people who faithfully give of themselves and what they have in service to God and to their neighbor. These are the kinds of people that don't just walk around talking about what is true, they live it with their lives.
We know these people when we see them.
It's almost as if they are illuminated from some sort of "inner light."
It's like when they enter a room, you can see better.
I want to be like that.