Have you ever had one of those conversations that, at the time seemed like an interesting yet ultimately insignificant exercise in thought, however upon further reflection it fundamentally changed your world view? For me, one of those conversations took place while I was having lunch with a friend. During the accompanying conversation she posed a fascinating question. “Does cold exist?”
Having grown up on the Great Lakes , I am intimately familiar with freezing temperatures and pain that can come from them. I therefore responded without hesitation, “Of course cold exists. I’ve been frozen by it.”
She continued, “But what is cold?”
I sat pondering for a while. “Cold is the absence of heat.”
“Exactly!” she replied knowingly. “So if cold is the result of something being absent then does it actually exist or is it simply a word we use to define a specific void?”
The conversation continued, ranging across a wide variety of topics, but that question of existence has revolutionized the way I see the world. As it turns out cold is not the only thing that doesn’t actually exist. A vacuum is the absence of matter. Silence is the absence of sound. Darkness is the absence of light. The amazing thing about the way God created the universe to function is that voids naturally want to be filled. Everything in nature inherently seeks balance. Given the opportunity a vacuum will draw things into it. In the quiet, the softest sound is heard all the more clearly. And into the darkness the smallest pin point of light breaks.
I hear people periodically lamenting the loss of “the good old days.” They talk about how conditions in the world are becoming increasingly difficult. They say darkness is increasing in the world, but I contend that what is actually changing is the amount of light. As light increases darkness fades. It has to, because by definition darkness is a measure of the absence of light. True darkness can only occur when there is zero light. Since there can never be less than zero light, darkness is finite. Conversely, light is infinite, its amount and intensity have unlimited potential for increase. As humans we can only perceive light within a certain range, but these human limits only affect our experience they have no bearing whatsoever on the potential of light.
This truth also applies in spiritual realms. We know God is light(John 8:12) and therefore infinite. His light is so intense that there is no darkness, no shadow (I John 1:5). Thankfully, He accounted for the limitations He placed on humanity regarding our capacity interact with His light. He therefore, took on human flesh to bring to the world His light. In John 8:12 Jesus said “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Now that Jesus is physically removed from the world He leaves His followers to be the light. In Matthew 5:14 Jesus tells his disciples “You are the light of the world.”
The light that individual believers generate does differ in intensity but not because the potential is limited. Rather the Christian propensity not to shine is a self inflicted malady. Traditionally, the Church at large has facilitated what I call The Candle Concept. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” From the time we are toddlers we are taught that we are like candles that shine in the night. Each little flame is fragile and weak. An individual candle only produces about one watt of light. Thus, many little candles are needed to light up the dark world and those fragile flames must be protected from a breeze that might extinguish them. I find this school of thought rather burdensome, not to mention limiting. Darkness only exists because light allows it to exist. Unfortunately, as we grow from childhood into adulthood we continue to see ourselves as little lights instead of recognizing that the light within us has the capacity to shine so brightly that there aren’t even any shadows left.
What if, instead, we think of our lives as lenses. We, in and of ourselves, are not the source of the light. Rather, the light comes from the Holy Spirit residing within us. We are merely the medium through which the light is projected. This means that the potential of the light is no longer limited because God is infinite. Also, the pressure of performance is removed from the individual. I no longer have to shine brightly, I have only to allow Christ to shine through me.
Satan does his best to erect barriers to the light, walls that cast deep shadows, walls of guilt, walls of shame, walls of lies and misperception, but when the intense light of Christ is shown on those shadows, barriers crumble. In order to light the world we must first recognize who we are in Christ and then live out that identity. We were never intended to be small lanterns huddled together to keep out the night. We can burn like suns, turning the night into day (Matthew 5:16). Let His light shine brightly through you, because when light meets the dark, light always wins.