Afraid Of The Dark
April 16, 2004
I remember being a little kid and having a night-light in my bedroom— one in the hall outside, and one in my bathroom for those late night emergencies. On special occasions, I would leave the fluorescent light of my fish tank on so that I could fall asleep watching my fish live their merry lives. I was scared of the dark. But so were my friends. Why is it that so many kids are scared of the dark? And why does it seem to be a perfect analogy for our spiritual lives? There is something about the darkness that breeds fear and uncertainty, a sense of the unknown.
It has been a long time since I slept with a night-light, but sometimes the darkness still scares me. I look outside my window and am consumed with the vast nothingness that is night. During the day my view is beautiful. There is reassuring familiarity in my half dead orange tree, the grass, which needs to be mowed and the large bush where a pair of birds has made their home. But at night it is all gone. I mean, I know those objects are still there and their beauty has not diminished, but I just can’t see them. Darkness.
Now, as a twenty-something who is trying to figure out his place in the world, it is not so much the physical darkness which scares me, but more the spiritual darkness I see all around me. I believe in a God who created the very essence of every person that I pass by each day. I believe we are but reflections of His glory and majesty. Yet, sometimes sin clouds that reflection, and it is more like an outline seen through dark, murky waters rather than light reflected in a mirror.
This world is a dark place. There is so much evil: murder, adultery, hate, greed, pride and jealousy. Sometimes even the days seem dark. Sometimes, I wonder what is going to become of our society as God has slowly (but surely) been pushed out of the public realm. Banning Him from our schools or our workplaces will never fully remove Him for He remains in the hearts of those who are faithful. But those who are faithful seem to be an increasingly marginalized group. And their light is harder to see through the vast darkness. Where once the light shown, there is nothing. Sometimes I feel like it is darker a lot more than it is light.
God urges His children to walk in the light for indeed: “God is light; there is no trace of darkness in Him. If we claim that we experience a shared life with Him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth- we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God Himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s son, purges all our sin” (1 John 1:5-7 from The Message). How do we do that? This is something I daily wrestle with: I can’t change the fact that this world is a dark place. I can’t even change how people treat each other, or the worldviews they adopt, which most of time leaves God out of the picture. All I can do is walk in the light where I see it, and when I don’t see it, shine my light into the dark places
Matthew 5:14-16 in The Message says, “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this … I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand- shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven”.Maybe I’m not the only one scared of the dark. Maybe the world is scared too, because Christians aren’t shining as they should. We’re called to be night-lights, little bulbs that give just enough light to get through the night. Because even when all we see is darkness, we are promised that the light will return.
It seems difficult to be a light when I am still scared of the dark. Sometimes I feel like if I can’t even find my own way, then how am I supposed to point others in the right direction? Even though my light isn’t always as bright as it should be, I still have to shine it. Jesus said so. I’ve also found that the more time I spend living in the light, the easier it is for me to reflect that light back into the darkness. Almost like that glow-in-the-dark Frisbee my youth pastor would bring to summer camps. The longer it stayed in the darkness the dimmer it got. Maybe that is how 1 st John 1 and Matthew 5 fit together. We must first spend time in the light before we can shine to others. The night-light has to be plugged in.
I think fear of the dark is always going to be around. It’s natural. At least as long as there is such a thing as darkness. But kids grow out of their fear, which enables them to better handle the dark. I hope that we, as Christians, never get so used to the darkness that we forget what it’s like to live in the light and reflect it to others.
[Burke Wallace is a seminary student from Los Angeles who does what any budding seminary student does and works at a restaurant. He likes to sleep in the dark but still keeps a flashlight near his bed for those late night pee emergencies.]