Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Surviving Darkness

The extra darkness at this time of the year doesn’t seem to bother Baxter. He exhibits no signs of increased depression—he sleeps and eats the same amount. He isn’t more lethargic than usual. He goes about his life in the dark about as well as he does in the light. Maybe that’s because cats see better in the dark than we humans do. It probably has something to do with their hunting instinct and stalking their prey at night. Sharp night vision allows the astute feline to snag a snack before the critter realizes it is caught. Of course, Baxter wouldn’t know that. He has never worked a day in his life for a meal.

Seeing in the dark is a skill we humans might do well to develop. I’m not talking here about physical sight, but about another set of eyes, those of the soul. Our souls look at life and want to see the meaning it holds. Where did it come from? Where is it all going? What brings genuine happiness? Where do we fit in the big picture? These questions provide us a viewpoint to uncover the source and sustenance behind a meaningful life, but to focus these lens of our soulful eyes, we need to be able to see in the dark.

So much of what we encounter in living is often difficult and even negative. We struggle with closeness and understanding in our relationships, especially those that we stake the most upon—our marriage, our family, our close friendships. We face dishonesty, cut throat competition, and deceit in the workplace. We worry about paying the bills, safety on our streets, and the life threatening influences on our children. Terrorism seems possible anywhere these days, so that we live always a little on edge with each other. How can we make something meaningful out of such a dark and disenchanting picture?

We have to learn to see through the dark. All of these anxious experiences can blind us to seeing anything more than threat and conflict. The eyes of faith have a broader and deeper vision. In faith we counterbalance human vice with human virtue. Though there are destructive forces in our world, there are also constructive ones— persons who genuinely want to help make others’ lives better, to work together for a common good, to share their talents and resources so that many may benefit. These hints of light live in the midst of the darkness, but they are not extinguished by its negative effects. Their presence keeps hope alive. Their influence develops the same vision in others. Their attitude is contagious, softening hardened hearts, neutralizing cynicism, and lowering defenses to allow people to come together as a community.

We who claim Jesus as the Lord must be these sparks in the darkness around us. Otherwise, our actions and attitudes contradict our profession of faith. We know the Creator and Savior who pronounced His world “good” and loved it unto His death on a cross. How can we give into the darkness and hide in it? If we do, we become catty cooperators with its forces in our world, hunting for what we can get out of it, not witnesses to what God’s love can put into it. Living in the midst of this broken world, our faith sees beyond the problems and fear to the promise of a faithful God who saves and recreates us.

Baxter sees in the dark to get to his feeding dish. Our faith can see through a dark world to be fed on the grace of our good and loving God.