When Light Shines Out Dark
May 31, 2015 07:13AM ● Published by Bonnie Lyn Smith
We walked hand in hand down Wright Avenue headed toward her home after a visit to the Five & Dime. I treasured my visits with Grandmom. Her hand was gnarly and warm, securing me somehow in decades of wisdom and life lived that I would not understand for many decades of my own. I guess on some level I knew her street of row homes was unsafe now, that her longtime homestead where she raised her family had become a place that sold dark—filled with poverty, broken families, addictions, violence, racial tensions, and a lack of hope.
But when Grandmom walked down that street, heads of all colors looked up and spoke reverently: “Hi, Mrs. H!”
And her response? She’d know them by name and say: “Hey, Willis, how is your mother doing?” She showed them respect.
From what I remember, she absolutely felt confused and disheartened by the changes on her street—maybe at times even a little scared (she’d been mugged twice in her elder years). But she absolutely chose to stay, to not tremble or cower, and…
As we started approaching a scene of a young teen couple arguing, and the boyfriend was punching his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach, I remember my grandmother not shying away from it. She didn’t move to the other side of the street. She walked us right past them. I honestly can’t recall if she had words in those moments or not. She may have. But as she approached, the Light of Christ she carried with her was enough to settle down the violence going on. He looked as though he had been caught in something and wore a look of shame. I had never seen anything like it. I was not more than a 10 year old child at the time, but
that scene has never left me.
I have no idea what happened after we passed. He could have gone after my grandmother for witnessing that, but he didn’t. He could have justified his own behavior by continuing to beat his girlfriend. I really don’t know. What I do know is that he could not keep offending when my grandmother was on the street.
Although I did not realize this until decades later, that was a spiritual moment. The evil he was tempted to do could not continue when the Holy Spirit (within my grandmother) walked down the street. That is the kind of reality that swarms around us all the time, only we’re mostly unaware of it, aren’t we?
The Apostle John said that Jesus was the Light. He is the source of Light.
John 1:4-9, ESV, Apostle John writing about Jesus
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
In the middle of His Sermon on the Mount sharing with His followers why He came, Jesus said some very important words about how we should live.
Matthew 5:14-16, ESV, Jesus speaking
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (emphasis mine).”
When Jesus left after His resurrection to return to the Father in heaven, He gave the Holy Spirit to those who believe.
John 8:12, ESV, Apostle John writing
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
We aren’t the source of the Light, but if we believe in and follow Christ, we carry the Holy Spirit Who illuminates Christ.
I encourage us all (who believe) to be mindful of that as we walk into dark, toxic, broken, sad, and otherwise difficult situations.
Do you ever sense a dynamic or atmosphere changing as you enter? Ever notice people are drawn to you like moths to a light? If we are walking knowing, consulting, and loving our Savior, we have the amazing privilege to bring His Light into dark places.
I was visiting a sweet friend in a psychiatric unit not too long ago. We were able to have a lovely conversation out in the hallway, but because you are not allowed to visit in the patients’ rooms, several patients at any time can interact. As we spoke, sometimes about our faith, in quiet tones, a woman wrapped from head to toe in blankets and heavy on medication walked out and literally stood next to us touching us arm against arm.
At first, I thought maybe she wanted the window view, but she followed us as we shifted a little, again wanting to touch into something. I have no idea what she was thinking, obviously, because she didn’t verbalize much. She was drawn to us. I can only hope it was the Light of Christ that beckoned her to us, but whether that was the case or not, it made us mindful to say a little prayer on our own for her. Had she not come out to touch us, I wouldn’t have known to pray silently for her. Maybe that is all that was to be accomplished in that one small, intentional moment.
The Apostle Paul reminds us of how we should be changing a world, bringing hope, joy, peace, love, kindness, compassion to our spheres of influence. He reminds us that the Light we’ve been given has the power to shine out the darkness.
2 Corinthians 4:6, ESV, Apostle Paul writing
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
How can we delight more in the amazing privilege God has given us to light up this world with His love, peace, and hope?
I reflect on this as I remember a short, fuzzy-white-haired, feisty legend of light and love who walked down her street without fear, knowing that her God was with her and her heart was full of His goodness and love.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.