For good or ill, it doesn’t take much light to overpower darkness.
Many years ago when I was a contact lens wearer, I developed a corneal ulcer in my right eye. Ever heard of it? It’s kind of like a sore, an open wound, but on the eyeball.
Oh yeah, you better believe it hurts! It’s the worse pain I’ve ever experienced. That time I tore my meniscus was a close second. Childbirth without anesthesia, a distant third.
The ulcer eventually scarred over leaving behind astigmatism, but no pain. These days, as long as I have the right glasses prescription, I don’t really think about it. Even so, if I have to see a new eye doctor for some reason, I have learned to give a heads up.
“I had a corneal ulcer in my right eye twenty five years ago,” I caution. “It doesn’t bother me, but I like to let new docs know it’s there.”
I can tell when the newbie hasn’t really grasped the severity of it when they look in my eye, pull back, and look again, “Whoa. You weren’t kidding! It’s like a divot has been scooped out of your cornea.” (Yep. I’ve actually heard that exact description.)
Corneal Ulcer & Light
Back when it happened, the pain was rough, but the hardest part of the whole thing was a sudden and acute light sensitivity. At its worst, I could hardly find a place dark enough to keep the light out of my eyes. I remember folding a bath towel around my head, over my dark sunglasses, to try to get some relief. Even now, I reflexively close my right eye in bright light.
Pinpricks of light
Light. Even the tiniest bit can pierce the darkness. That’s true in the negative for a corneal ulcer (and also migraine headaches), but it’s also true in a thousand positive ways. A gloomy mood can be reversed by a thoughtful gesture. A rotten day can pivot on a kind word. A frightening diagnosis is lessened by a plan for healing. It doesn’t take a lot of light either. Just a pinprick of light forces darkness out of its path.
Light on light
The thing is though, light cannot do its job properly if there is no darkness. When you shine a flashlight into a fully lit room, you don’t notice it nearly as much as you do when you point that light under furniture or into the shadows. Light doesn’t have to work as hard when other light is present. In a space that is already bright and shiny, if a light’s batteries are dying or its flame is faulty, you’ll hardly notice.
In my experience, Christians are really good at shining light into bright places. We keep the electricity on in our buildings and make sure bulbs are changed regularly. We gather in other bright places like camps and convention centers. And YES! We should keep the lights on! We should make sure that our fellowship shines under, around, and beyond, seeking out darkness within our own four walls. Of course we should do that.
It’s just not enough. The thing is, darkness doesn’t readily seek out light. It may recognize its need for light. It may even want light. But rarely will it leave its shadows to search for light. And you get it don’t you? Think about the times you have been in a dark space (think 8th grade classroom when the teacher is showing a film) and suddenly someone turns on the lights. Ouch! Now imagine if you had a migraine or a corneal ulcer. It makes sense that people who are used to darkness would avoid brightness, doesn’t it?
Bearers of Light
So how can we be bearers of light? Well, for one thing, we don’t take our brightest spotlights and stand at a distance (#billboardevangelism). And we don’t hold our light at arms length, shining a spotlight on the frailties of others. No, we need to get up close. We build friendships, serve others, and allow them to serve us. We live life together, hearing each other’s stories and carrying each other’s burdens. And, as relationships form, we find the light grows, reflected by the beloveds we come to know.
A spark from way back
If you were raised in a 1970s Baptist youth group–admittedly a small sample group–you probably remember the popular song by Kurt Kaiser, “Pass it On.” Okay yeah, we over-sang it to the point of monotony, but stay with me. The simple lyrics illustrate my point.
It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;
That’s how it is with God’s Love,
Once you’ve experienced it,
Your spread the love to everyone
You want to pass it on.