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Darkness is as Light

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Phil. 2:12-13

To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. Col. 1:29

Now that my children are both in school five days a week, I feel a bit lost in this new phase of mothering. I feel like a part time mom and I really want to be a full time mom, even though it makes me feel crazy and tired so much of the time. The desire to keep my children near me and to be the primary voice and shaping influence in their world is strong. Yet, I know the goal of parenting is to equip them to leave home and flourish independently. As I thought about this over the weekend, it occured to me that this is exactly the opposite of God’s parenting of me…or should I say, re-parenting?

As a non-believer or immature believer, I am convinced of my own autonomy, independence and self-sufficiency. The more I come to know God the Father through the person and work of Jesus, the more I realize that growing in faith is growing in my genuine belief that I am utterly dependent upon Him and fundamentally incapable of sustaining myself or developing emotionally, physically, intellectually or obviously spiritually apart from Him. The weaning, then, is the opposite of a breastfeeding child. The weaning of my life in the Gospel is from my own perceived self-reliance to a life of reliance upon Him alone for all things and in all things.

In real life in real time, I am never consciously saying, “I will trust in myself rather than God.” Sin is much more subtle and powerfully deceptive than that. Instead, my self-reliant and autonomy driven heart much more simply turns to other sources for my needs than to God. It may be some habit of escape into comfort (food, alcohol, television, web surfing) or it may be to people who I expect should satisfy my longings for being known, cared for, protected or rescued. In either case, I have ceased placing my trust and dependence upon God as my comforter, provider, protector, encourager and source of significance and instead offered these positions to lesser “gods” of my own making.

A scenario that keeps presenting itself is that of extreme darkness encountered in such seasons as trauma, depression, divorce, job loss, chronic illness or the death of a loved one. There is a tangible sense in these moments of life that there is a dark bottomless hole that I or my loved ones are in danger of falling in and never getting out, and that we together must avoid that unknown yet certain quicksand with all our might. The looming assumption is that if I or she or he does fall in, tragedy and regret of some form is certain.

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139:1-12

What dark places can my thoughts, emotions or even physical body find that God is not already present or where He is not hemming me in behind and before? What darkness can I or a friend encounter that is not as light as day to my loving heavenly Father? Why do I expend so much of my own energy, in any form, avoiding these dark places for myself or loved ones at all costs when they are often the place I and they can see Jesus most clearly? What am I so afraid of in those places and what has persuaded me that God will be defeated by them?

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Is. 42:16

My tendency in times of disorientation is to grab for the familiar, the comfortable, or to run to people and activity rather than to find my safety and rest in Him. This is simply because I still do not really believe what He has told me is true about His uninterrupted presence with me, especially when I cannot see and do not understand. My faith that I have not been left alone to survive by my own “inner strength” or understanding brings about that Gospel amnesia and convinces me that the ship is going down unless I do something now. Oh that I would trust Him to be present with me and would I trust Him to be present with my loved ones, as He has promised He is and always will be. And might I entrust myself and those I cherish deeply to His care and redemptive work rather than just simply wanting to fix the moment with comfort. Do I trust Him? Perhaps then, slowly, I can see as Job was able only as a result of suffering, and know how fundamentally dependent I am upon the Lover of my soul. I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Job 42:2-5

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