light: i'll take a sliver anyday

small-candlelight

i’m taking a brief departure from this current series what could be to participate in the december synchroblog, a group of bloggers writing on the same topic. i always love participating and hearing from a variety of voices & perspectives. you can check out the links below. in the month’s topic is “light and dark as motifs of spirituality.”

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like a lot of people, i struggle with a basic human tendency toward black and white thinking.  it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be, and i am thankful that a big piece of my spiritual journey in the past decade or so has been focused on learning what it means to live in the tension of real life, with it’s good & its bad.  with its known and its unknowns.  with its ugly & it’s beautiful.   with its depravity & its dignity.  with its light and its dark.   it’s not entirely natural, though, and embedded deeply inside of me is an expectation of myself, of God, or of others that is often unrealistic, unreasonable, and unfair.  life was never supposed to be all light. or all dark.  but in this season of advent we are reminded that Jesus, the Light of the world, continually pierces through the darkness in wild, unexplainable ways to bring people across cultures & circumstances greater hope, peace, joy, and love.

we sometimes think that our society has become worse,  more depraved, over the years, but in reality, since the beginning of time, the spirit of darkness has always been at work, pulling people toward power & evil & self-centeredness & separation & loneliness & hate & corruption.  this is nothing new.  when it comes to these things, the world that Jesus entered as a baby wasn’t all that different than the world we live in now; the same issues apply and many are still looking for the same things that they were looking for then–justice.  mercy.  help.  hope.  understanding.  love.    but i think what happened to them, what happened to us, is they were looking for what they thought they needed, for what they unrealistically expected:  a king, a dramatic rescue, immediate results.   the messiah, the savior, had better deliver the goods!   what i absolutely love about the gospels is how completely contrary Jesus was to what people expected.  but what that might have meant for them, what it might means for us, is sometimes this unmet expectation leaves us in what feels & seems like utter darkness–a longing, waiting, expecting, hoping for something that maybe we’re realizing just might not ever come in the way we expected. i think that is where my faith has shifted in these past years;  i don’t demand as much from God as i used to but am more apt to notice the small & beautiful & sometimes imperceptible-at-first ways Jesus is moving in people’s lives & celebrate that instead of shaking my fists at all the things that still look grim.   this world is hard.  it is harsh.  this side of heaven there are some things i will never see healed the way that i want them to be healed & i’ll admit, it pisses me off.  but then i remember that Jesus didn’t promise that this dark world would suddenly become light.  he promised tastes of the kingdom now, that he would shine his reflection through us and be constantly at work redeeming, restoring, bringing glory until we all take our last breath. until then, i will have to acknowledge that in the midst of this dark world, i must strain to see light. to notice slivers where i might have missed.  to not expect that every day will be filled with glory the way i want it but to be satisfied & thankful for the slivers of goodness, of beauty, of healing, of hope that slice through the darkness & remind me that Jesus, the light of the world, hasn’t ditched us but is alive and well, bringing the good news into hard places of my life, my friends lives, people-all-over-the-world’s lives.

some would say that i’m settling, not expecting miracles.  i will push back and say that i do believe in miracles. i can see miracles everyday when my eyes aren’t blinded by expectations of big miracles.  the ones i often see  just don’t look at exciting as some or even remotely to close to my not-so-humble  idea of what God should do!  but i must say, in a given week, i see God cracking open darkness all the time in people’s lives, penetrating slivers of light that remind me that we’re not done for, that it’s not the end of the story, and that Hope lives & takes all different forms.

yeah, i used to expect God to wipe out darkness in one fell swoop–in my life, in the life of my friends.  now, a sliver’s now enough for me.  more powerful than i ever expected.   more beautiful than i could have imagined.  so when it comes to light & dark as motifs for spirituality, i thought i’d take a practical bent & share some slivers with you, moments that i encountered over the past few weeks where light penetrated the darkness & i saw courage, hope, healing, love, kindness in the midst of stark situations & circumstances:

  • some single mommies i know sometimes want to throw in the towel.  they’ve got bills to pay, jobs to get, babies to raise.  but just a little bit of relief provided here and there by caring community lifts the floor & restores some hope in the midst. that’s light in the darkness.
  • free bread provided by a local store tide over some families on the edge.  that’s light in the darkness.
  • a group of women walking through the pain of their sexual abuse tell shame to go to hell, that they’re tired of the power its had in their lives & it can’t keep having its hold on them.  that’s light in the darkness.
  • a man filled with self-doubt & insecurities from past emotional & physical abuse saying  strongly & confidently “i am learning that i am valuable and i’m getting ready to forgive the people who harmed me.”   that’s light in the darkness.
  • someone who knows some specific pain & struggle passing on hope and love to someone else in the midst of the similar. seeing a story redeemed up close and personal. that’s light in the darkness.
  • a coffeehouse filled with people listening to our brave friend share stories of her journey. seeing what true inside beauty & courage really looks like, feels like, is.  that’s light in the darkness.
  • a friend building a new life after a divorce & risking her heart again.  that’s light in the darkness.
  • another who is bruised & bloody after a painful church experience finding safety among some friends who aren’t afraid of her pain & will stand alongside her & accompany on the next leg of her spiritual journey.   that’s light in the darkness.

everywhere i look, in small slivers, i see God’s light piercing the darkness.  it’s hard to see sometimes.  but it’s worth straining for.  where did you see light this week?

God, give us eyes to see your light, piercing the darkness, in all kinds of ways.

* * * * *

other synchrobloggers participating (more coming & i’ll add when i get their link):

bethany stedman – light is coming

beth patterson – advent: awaiting the ancient and ever new

j.r. miller – discover light in the darkness<!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–>

steve hayes – lord of the dark

liz at grace rules – what the heck?

adam gonnerman – in darkness

jeff goins – walking in the light with Jesus

lainie petersen – what the mirror doesn’t tell me

julie clawson – darkness and light

ellen haroutunian – holy darkness

susan barnes – …and here’s a photo of one i made earlier

sally coleman – light into dark

erin word – fire and sacrifice

josh jinno – spiritual motifs of dark and light

phil wyman – darkness: a thin place for my soul

k.w. leslie – darkness vs. blackness

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

26 Comments

  • Pingback: Light is Coming | Coffee Klatch
  • Where did I see light this week? Visible light seems sparse to me, right now. But I saw slivers… in the eyes of a friend who just cares… in her voice that said, “I believe you. You’re not crazy.” In a quiet voice inside that says, “I’m still here.”

    Reply
  • Hey Kathy,

    I enjoyed your article like always. Yeah…I think we look back on the past with rose colored glasses. Speaking from my own experience, I know I do. I often look back and say “I wish I was there again because that wasn’t nearly as hard as this”. In reality, whatever challenges I am usually faced with are equally hard.

    My freshman year of college we read a book called “The way things never were”. The book dealt with misconceptions about America’s past. Andy Griffith and Father Knows Best were not the way a lot of Americans experienced life. Many households only had one car. Striking your wife was sometimes acceptable. Children were not always fairly disciplined, but legally beaten with fists and whatever else a cruel parent might find. Inside of myself, I chuckle when I hear people say that they should have been born in the 1800’s. I think they are really longing for a simpler life, which is within their reach today. Little House on the Praire as much as I liked the show was Michael Landon’s creation, not real life.

    I also liked learning about your experiences with others where there was light in the darkness.

    Where did I see light in the darkness this week? Oddly enough, within myself. Really trying to change ways that are sometimes selfish. Oh…and of course in the eyes of my German Shepherds 🙂

    Reply
  • I love this. I think this post is a wonderful entry to help start a conversation with somebody who is asking a lot of why’s….why why why why isn’t life easy…. why is there so much bad…. why do things get worse…. why can’t God just ___….

    because really – it isn’t meant to be. and we’re not here so He can give to us and make life easier. That’s just not the mission. life isn’t going to be ‘easy’… maybe we’ll have easy days/seasons…. but as we meet more and more friends – the chances are somebody in our circle is going to be going through some real tough crap. Life realy can be so tough – and for people who think that when they are following God that it won’t be tough — when it does get tough, they begin to believe the lie that Jesus doesn’t love them. that they must not be ‘chosen’ by God and many turn from Him.

    Life is tough and although sometimes it’s tough because of our own personal decisions — many times it’s tough because the result of the world we live in. Life is worse for some than others and I don’t know why. but I do agree with you that there are ‘slivers’ everywhere and we are often times blind to them for many reasons – like you said maybe they just aren’t blaringly huge & obvious enough for us…. sometimes the light isn’t good enough for us. we are so flesh focused. We can’t see/touch/feel the blessings of the light enough and the world can’t see them enough to prove to others how blessed we are…. so we become blind to them with our hard hearts. but if only our eyes & hearts were really really open to what is going on all around us without notice by the majority.

    this post is something I’m going to share with a friend who recently came back to Christ after many years away from Him after growing up in & not agreeing with ..the mormom church. I was really thinking in my heart something along these lines as he asked me for some thoughts — and then I came on here and read this and was just.. woah…. some of this is just what I was thinking!

    I think that what is cool is that my personality type or something about me (way I was raised?) is extremely enthusiastic and excited over the ‘slivers’. When I see little ‘drops’ of Jesus & the Spirit’s work — I know that little drops of good turn into huge life changes — because I’ve seen it happen. So I DO get so overly excited even with little slivers. maybe a bit too excited – so I’m a nutcase and freak people out a bit 🙂

    I think that we really can allow the ‘little glimmers/slivers’ to turn into huge slivers just by our attitude toward them… our enthusiasm over them and by our thankfulness… because without thankfulness I really don’t believe there is any room for more blessings & slivers to come in.

    if u want to know where I have seen light this week — I could probably sit here and rattle off so many. I really believe I’ve been blessed to be able to pay attention & focus on little seeds I see planted. I realized a while back life really is all about the seeds. so many chase the huge mountains right away expecting ridiculous earth shattering movement and power through many differnet forms…. totally realizing the very thing they are chasing was right there in my heart/home…. and that is where it starts. being able to recognize His work right where you are exactly. hence my blog name- seeds in my heart. it really is always about small decisions. small pieces of light that are just enough to direct the path right in front of us. many times i was thinking that when the Spirit comes into us we shine as bright as the sunshine so that we are noticed by all aruond us — but I realized that was satan’s sin. thinking that he was the one shining when all he was was a reflection of God. there is only room for One Sonshine and the rest of us can reflect Him exactly where we are, in the roles we are… we can’t all be huge stars… but we can all be slivers with the Spirit helping us reflect the Light.

    I really do believe that I am able to see little drops of light and in my heart I hear the Spirit saying…. watch this — this is a turning point for this person and nobody even knows. but you watch what I do.

    so cool to think about all this! 🙂

    thanks kathy – sorry for all the rambling. 🙂 just excited today for some reason! 🙂 not sure if anything is even really applicable/relevant. but those are the seeds in my heart today! 🙂

    Reply
  • and then crazy enough as I wrote all that before… I also really felt aferward…. that at the same time — we DO have access to way way way more ‘power’/’authority’ than we realize…. but I don’t think it necessarily comes in the form we expect it or how we define power/authority. I definitely do think we underestimate possibilities

    Reply
  • Pingback: Beth Patterson : Advent: awaiting the ancient and the ever new
  • Pingback: What the Mirror Doesn’t Tell Me (December Synchroblog) — Headspace
  • Kathy, very ironic that I found your blog today through Julie Clawson’s because I loved her post on Sojourners the other day. I will be reading more when I have time……….As far as seeing light this week, just today witnessed a group taking care of the urgent needs of a women’s shelter here where we live in TX now, no longer CO (for now). Peace Kathy!

    Reply
  • Beautiful, Kathy. There are many “slivers” that are always coming from you and your eyes for your friends. Hugs.

    Reply
  • Kathy – Loved your post and all the real life slivers you shared. Where did I see light this week? Neighbors helping each other put up lights and oohing and ahhing over each other’s yards. Volunteers joking and laughing together as they worked at a food bank. Young people singing together at an Advent service. My sons excited about the holidays even though it will be a lean Christmas for us. Thank you for getting me to take the time to stop and count the slivers.

    Reply
  • thanks for the link. i love how you resolve this – a sliver is enough. i don’t understand it all, but i know that it’s good. thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • Light in the darkness … ummmm …. “YES WE CAN!!!!”

    ‘If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

    Reply
  • Hi Kathy–really appreciated the practical, earthiness of your post about ‘slivers of light’! I don’t know you, but I suspect you’re a pretty big sliver for a lot of folks…

    Slivers for me this week:
    –the rescued, abandoned Husky finally licking my hand
    –staff belly-laughing in the hallway where I work (a child abuse response center). If we didn’t laugh, we just WOULD go insane…
    –my hibiscus blooming, in December
    –hearing the dreams of my sisters in Dream Circle and knowing that we’re connected in ways we can’t even really dream about!

    Thanks, Kathy, and glad you’ll take the month of January for some R&R!

    Reply
  • I sometimes think that true light comes in slivers, and too often we miss it amongst all the gaudy lights that fill our world!

    Great post

    Reply
  • katherine – now that’s light…

    lisa – yeah, i think often we have this idea that it’s all supposed to be one way and when it turns out another, we go to despair. i like where you found light this week, that is beautiful!

    randi – i do hear that sometimes, this little nudge that says “look here, notice this, relish this, celebrate this, it’s small but it’s important to see.” sure, i don’t disagree that sometimes we miss possibilities & are way more powerful than we think, etc., but i do think it’s important to remember that it is easier for us to say that when we have margin and roofs over our head and food in our tummies and healthy kiddos, too. that’s just my opinion, though.

    kim – thanks for stopping by, welcome, i am glad you found it. yeah, that’s some light. love hearing stuff like that.

    ellen – thanks, i really LOVED your post, too. oh so many good things in that one, my friend.

    liz – such beautiful moments to notice. thanks for sharing…

    jeff – glad you participated in this first synchroblog. yeah, i don’t understand it either but i know it’s good. thanks for stopping by!

    mark – ah, thanks for rooting for us from across the miles. enjoy your rest for the next few days, i am so jealous!!!

    beth – thanks for your list, it is always so fun to hear and see what others’ slivers are. what is the dream circle?

    sally – oh i loved that poem you wrote, btw. i think you are so right, the lights are always there, but because of the blaring all around, sometimes so hard to see.

    Reply
  • My oh my, wonderful post.

    We miss the little things because our focus is so wrong eh?

    One little miracle that always astounds me is when I check the obituaries every day and my name is not there – whew! Thanks God for this beautiful miracle!

    Kathy, I post new chapters on the Prayer Bible whenever I get chance, if you want to check them out and let me have your thoughts?

    Lots of love!

    Pops ‘n Jill

    Reply
  • I didn’t mean to take away from a person in a different situation….and I don’t think my joy should, should it? what did I say wrong?

    I didn’t mean to make it seem that people just aren’t thankful enough if they don’t see the slivers. I do think it is ‘easier’ for me to see slivers and be thankful because I’ve lead a very blessed life compared to many….but I also recognize my blessings are undeserved and that I am in danger of becoming prideful, unappreciative, and poor in spirit & faith because of how unfamiliar I am to many harshnesses of life compared to others –

    and because of that danger, I feel I must not take even the slivers for granted. I don’t know why I’ve been so blessed – but I sure am thankful for it – that’s all I was trying to say I guess……

    Reply
  • pops – yeah, i so don’t want to miss the little things. and i really love your prayer bible pieces. beautiful.

    randi – oh my friend, this is what happens with weird online communication! i wasn’t trying to take away your joy at all. what i was trying to emphasize, though, is that sometimes it’s easy to talk about power and possibilities when we feel like we have them. i am so sensitive, really, to what some of my friends who have absolutely no margin, sometimes say and feel. that’s all, i didn’t mean to diminish what you were saying in the slightest. i am so with you, we need to strain to see what’s right before us because no matter how dark it can get, how good it is, there’s always a sliver to focus on. thanks as always randi!

    Reply
  • I have been thinking about light and darkness for awhile now. My fav phrase from psalms: “ My God turns my darkness into light.”

    I sometimes feel like I am reaching for a light that I am blind to. Sometimes I am afraid of where it might shine. I am in a place where the darkness seems to have seeped into every crack and corner of my soul. I don’t remember when I gave up hope for a light that would clear all the darkness away, but it was a long time ago. Sometimes I battle to even hope for a small crack. Sometimes I reach out eyes closed, to a light I need more than I need to breathe.

    This week I saw a small light. Over the past couple of weeks a couple of friends have seen first hand a little of just how screwed up my heart, mind, and life is. They have seen a little of just how dark my days are. And they have stayed. Even when there were no clear answers, heck, not even words that I could say, they stayed anyhow. They didn’t treat me like a project, tell me to go and get fixed by this or that person, didn’t tell me to go and come back when I am fixed, didn’t pretend everything was ok when it wasn’t, didn’t treat me like a freak/different/one of those/ the other, they didn’t run…

    They stayed.

    No one sees that much of my battle, of my darkness, and stays – but they did. They treated me in a freakishly normal kind of way. I honestly don’t know what do with it, how to even act, what to even say, or do. I am confused with a million questions and can’t seem to stop the tears.

    The darkness seems to have settled in further, but somewhere in the middle of my broken and torn apart heart, something clicked – a peace, small and flickering, not dependent on anything, is there… It came about in a way and a time I could have never expected… and I have no idea how or why, and it may be gone tomorrow. But even then, I am so glad for it.

    A light in the dark, warmth in the cold – I crave it and yet can’t get too close to it. I have spent years in the dark, in the cold – numbed out from feeling. The light, brings feeling. And the warming up hurts like crazy. God drives me nuts sometimes. I’m even nuttier. I ache for the darkness to be just a little less dark, and yet sometimes I am afraid of the light, the warmth.

    I am so thankful for the light He opened my eyes to see that came through my friends this past week.

    Reply
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