I have two light fixtures in my closet, both with florescent light bulbs. One of those lights has been out for quite a while now. Florescent bulbs and I don’t have the best history. I’ve often struggled to fit them correctly in the grooves of the fixture, and I’ve dropped a couple in my day, shattering everywhere. So, when this particular bulb in my closet dimmed significantly, I did nothing. I just depended on the one fixture still working even though the closet was much darker and harder to navigate.
The other day, the dormant bulb suddenly came to life. A buzzing sound accompanied the moment, just like in a movie. The light shone bright, and the darkness disappeared. And, I saw the mess that was in my closet. Instead of appreciating the unexpected emergence of the light, however, I was irritated. “Really,” I said (yes, I was talking to the light). “You pick today to come back on? I don’t have the time or energy to deal with this today.” I didn’t want to see the disaster in my floor. While I didn’t take the time to clean the closet that day, I realized that once the light came on even for a little bit, I couldn’t pretend that the mess did not exist.
Life works like that sometimes. The metaphorical light comes on and exposes something in our lives that we weren’t ready to see, but that we can’t un-see once our eyes are opened. In my own personal experience, when a family member cries out after injuring themselves, I tend to want to know what happened and what did they did to cause the problem. I go directly to figuring out who did something wrong. Over the years, my husband Ben called me on this behavior. He asked why I didn’t show some compassion first and find out if they were really hurt before assigning blame. His comment stung. My desire to be right is strong, and I was defensive. I didn’t change immediately. Once my behavior was exposed though, I then felt guilty every time I acted poorly in response to someone else’s physical pain. Gradually, I started to change. I’ve worked hard to make sure my first response now is concern and love, not blame or “I told you so.”
We can experience spotlights in our communities, big or small, as well. Recent events have exposed systemic racism in our society. Ben and I have learned that there are segments of our nation’s history that we’ve never heard about, much less studied. Some people deny there are problems. They don’t want to see the issues. But the light is on, and we cannot ignore or turn away any longer. We must seek to make systemic change to address the systemic injustices.
Jesus spent much of his ministry turning on the lights for people, culture, and society. When individuals encountered Jesus, they came away changed. He knew what they’d done, who they were, and he forgave and loved them anyway. He spent time with the outcasts and made them feel worthy. Then, he turned toward the upper classes of society and challenged them to care for the poor and weak; to walk away from strict doctrine if it meant excluding people instead of loving them. Once Jesus exposed the problems, the people could not un-see them. Some of them hated him for it, even to the point of killing him, but they could not squelch the power of his light.
I think Jesus calls us to be people who will change when we see the light, even when we don’t want to admit our past wrongs. He also calls on us to shine the light on unfairness and injustice when we witness it. We can change and also be agents of change. Let’s look for the light and not cower when we see it. God is still switching on the lights in our lives and our world.