Blinded By the Light


   Blinded By the Light

“There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.”  John 1:9

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about light.  It’s been a source of beauty and of blindness, so I’ve found myself feeling both appreciation and apprehension towards it.  Here’s the basis for this sense of conflict.  Each morning I awake and am thankful for the sunrise.  How can one not be thankful for a sunny day?  Then, as I drive to work, those dancing rays of sunshine change their tempo and become dart-like beams of light as a battalion of them attack my windshield and I cannot see the road before me.  I feel as if I’ve had a Damascus Road experience every morning this week and I’m wondering if, prior to Bruce Springsteen’s penning of “Blinded by the Light”, Saul/Paul wasn’t the original scribe of these words!  It’s rather frightening, this blindness in the face of light, and that makes me wonder just how similar our earthly light is to God’s eternal light?  If the sun’s rays on earth can blind me, then what will happen when I stand before the Light of the World?  How will I ever be able to see then?

While the unknowns of Heaven far outweigh the knowns, of this I am certain:  when it comes to Heavenly light, all earthly principles will be obsolete.  For example, on earth, light travels from the sun to the earth and as it moves, the wavelengths are bent and bounced off particles of dust, water, and gas.  And, as if these elements were not enough, we can add to them an obstacle course of pollutants as well.  All in all, by time light arrives to us, it has literally pin-balled its way through our atmosphere, arriving both distorted and diffracted.  But, as God provides beauty even in bedlam, these microscopic collisions between dust and daylight not only brighten our world but they also color it with blue skies, red sunsets, a yellow sun, and brown windshields.  Did I mention that when the sunlight blinds me each morning it does so through a windshield that suddenly appears brown?  Did I leave that out?  Hmmm.  Perhaps it’s not important.  After all, it’s the blinding nature of the sunlight coming through my windshield that gives me trouble…surely it’s not the cleanliness of my windshield that’s a factor in my blindness…surely not…

And, before leaving the subject of windshields, I doubt that I’m the only one who finds it difficult to keep one clean.  Truth be told, even when I’ve washed it, somehow the windshield never seems to remain spotless.  Between the kamikaze insect attacks that are unleashed after dark and the tell-tale paw prints that indicate the top of the car has once again been the nightly stake-out for our ever vigilant (or vilified) cat, somehow, clean windshields are a rarity.  And, in all honesty, until the sunlight hits the glass I’m not even aware of all the nightly graffiti that’s been written upon it.  But when the light hits it each morning, I am abundantly aware of all the spots and blemishes…and the nature of light and its diffusing quality once again flashes before me.  And I wonder, what will pure light be like?  What will it be like to encounter light that isn’t diffracted or distorted?  What will it be like to never again have a dirty windshield that obstructs the path of light?  Earthly light bends and curves; eternal light neither bows nor cambers.  On earth, sunlight has countless particles that obstruct its path; in Heaven, nothing will interfere with the pathway of the Son’s light.  No more particles of pride, selfishness, vanity, greed, or obstinacy; no more windshields ridden with the previous night’s encounters; no more detours.  In Heaven, the light that reaches us will come straight from its Creator:  pure, direct, and unbent.

It’s hard to imagine any light other than the only one we know.  It’s hard to imagine any place that is outside our present frame of reference.  How do you picture that which you have not seen?  How do you fathom that which is beyond your ability to even imagine?  C.S. Lewis captured this quandary in his book, The Last Battle.  (This is the last book in the Narnia series and if you’ve never read it, I strongly suggest you do…after reading the previous six!  Its use of symbolism and imagery make it, in my opinion, one of the best tools to teach Biblical philosophy to children…and probably to adults as well!)  While not giving away the ending of the book, suffice it to say that toward the end of the story the characters find themselves in a place that is indescribable.  They have seen the Narnia they knew destroyed and now they are uncertain of their present location.  Here are some quotes from the last few pages.

“Peter,” said Lucy, “where is this, do you suppose?”   

“Is it not Aslan’s country?” said Tirian.

“As soon as I walked through the door, the first wonder was that I found myself in this great sunlight.”

“There isn’t a country anywhere like this in our world.  Look at the colors!  You couldn’t get a blue like that in our world!”

“This is the land I have been looking for all my life. Come now, further up and further in!”

I think this is an apt depiction of my encounter with light.  I know it in its earthly form, but I cannot fathom it in its truest, purest, Heavenly form.  I know it literally when it enlightens that which is around me and when it blinds me from that which lies before me.  I know it figuratively when it bounces off my iniquities and when it highlights my sin-laden windshield.  But the light that I know is diffused and distorted; it is not straight and true.  What will it be like to not only encounter the Light of the World but to actually enter into it?  I cannot imagine, but I know that when I do, I will want to go “further up and further in”.

And so I contemplate the blinding nature of light.  In its earthly state, it moves from the sun to the earth, constantly distorted by the particles in its path; in its eternal state, it moves from the Son to the saint, without diffraction but on a perfectly straight path.  And so, until I enter into the Light and see things as they were meant to be seen…until I can look upon the Source of Light free from the separation of a dirty windshield…until then, I will no doubt continue to be blinded by this earthly light.  But I will keep my focus upward; I will continue to move further up and further in, knowing that one day I will stand before the Source of Light that will enable me to, at last, see things as they were meant to be seen, and not as they currently appear.  I will leave behind the world of floating (sin) particles and will step into the realm of forgiveness…of unfettered light and of clean windshields!  Blinded by the light?  Only for a little while longer, and then I will be binded to the Light!

C.S. Lewis on darkness

The Perfect Paradox

The Perfect Paradox

“You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this recent result.”     –Genesis 50:20

Have you ever been perplexed by a paradox?  You’re following directions in one area of life and then, WHAM, you get hit because you were reading the directions about how not to get hit.  You think it’s a bit ironic, but then it happens again and now you’re afraid to look down because perhaps you should be looking left, or you cautiously look right but wonder what’s coming up from behind.  It’s a strange place, this world, and it’s “directions” are sometimes a bit contradictory.

For example, I have always found contradictions in the following situations:

  • Going to the eye doctor: we are told it’s not good to look directly into bright lights because it’s bad for our eyes, but when our eyes are examined, the doctor shines a laser beam through our eyeball which shoots straight through our cornea and directly into our brain.  We know what the doctor saw because, for the next several minutes, our ‘skeletal eye’ looks back at us every time we blink!
  • Going to the dentist: we are told it’s not good to eat sticky candy like Jolly Ranchers or caramels because it could pull out our fillings, but when impressions of our teeth are made, the dentist all but stands on our chest to pull it out of our mouth.  Surely the retrieval of a Jolly Rancher never required such physical strength…or agility!
  • Moving the lawn: we know that, in the event a rock is hit while mowing (accidentally, or course), the cutting blade is dulled, yet to sharpen that same blade, a rocklike tool is used.  Go figure!  Hit a wet rock and dull the blade, stroke with a whet rock and sharpen the blade.  (I have tried to argue that by hitting more rocks I am actually sharpening the mower blade, but I have yet to provide the necessary proof to support my argument, not that I am put off by this…somehow it still seems reasonable, if you don’t try to analyze it, or if you’re the one who has to weed-eat the area where the rocks are prone reside.)

I find these oddities to be a bit amusing.  Unfortunately, my eye doctor, dentist, and husband don’t find my insights quite as humorous.  It just seems funny to me when opposites not only attract, but support; when the very thing that holds something up is the very thing that knocked it down in the first place.  Paradoxes; they are evident in our lives and they are apparent in Scripture, and why would we expect otherwise?  We have a King who died for His subjects that we might become righteous through our redemption; the perfect paradox.

Do you see the beauty of this?  Do you see the timbers falling upon one another?  Do you see the creation of a triangle as each side not only leans upon the other but supports the other?  Triune God:  Father falls upon Son, Son falls upon Spirit, Spirit falls up Father; Father supports Son, Son supports Spirit, Spirit supports Father.  The Perfect Paradox.

As we read God’s word, we find the recording of many seemingly contradictory situations.  Take for example, Gideon and his army.  As the Midianites approached with their 135,000 troops, God told Gideon that his army of 32,000 was too large.  Gideon scaled back to 10,000 men only to be told that, once again, there were too many soldiers.  By the time God was done with His battle “preparations”, Gideon had an army of 300 men; 300 to 135,000…1 to 450.  (Judges 7)  And who won this ironic and iconic battle?  The army of the LORD; the army of 300.  Paradoxical planning?  Of course, outlined by and outsourced to a Pardoxical God.

And what about the paradoxical life, and death, of Lazarus?  Here is an oddity that can only be appreciated in its aftermath!  Surely Mary and Martha did not chuckle, early on, at the apparently untimely timing of Jesus.  As one of Lazarus’ best friends, as the awaited Messiah, as the known Healer, why would Jesus not show up on time when Mary and Martha beckoned Him?  Why would the Creator of time not be better able to maneuver through it…or manipulate it…or stop it?  The thoughts that raced through the minds of Mary and Martha must have felt like trees falling in the woods.  Everything toppled, everything crashed, everything fell pell-mell.  How could this be?  How could He not?  How do I believe…what do I believe?  And then, there He is.  No apologies for running late; no remorse for allowing what could have been avoided; no…anxiety, or turbulence, or urgency.  He’s just standing there, seemingly surprised that others are, well, surprised.  It’s a paradox; it’s perfectly timed untimeliness.  It’s perfect peace in a storm, it’s unshakable confidence in the sea of uncertainty.  It’s the Creator of life at the mouth of the tomb.  And then He calls out to His friend, “Lazarus, come forth.”  And he does; up and out, and over and through…right up to Jesus; right up to the One who finds life in death.  Right up to the One who will, within a short time, also know death that we may know life.  (John 11) And the doubts fall, and the trust leans, and the faith beams form.

Then, there’s the Apostle Paul.  His story is a plethora of paradoxes:  fanatical for the law, he becomes a fanatic for the LORD; biased toward his Jewish lineage, he becomes boastful of his Christian heritage; avenger to the expounding of the resurrection, he becomes ardent for the expansion of the gospel; and temporarily blinded in a physical sense, he gains eternal sight in a spiritual sense.  (Acts 9)  And the timbers fall…and the trusses emerge…and the support beams rise.

What an unfathomable, paradoxical God we serve.  Surely, His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are our ways His ways (Isaiah 55:8).  So, when it comes to the oddities in life, when it seems as if we’re living in a topsy-turvy world where opposites not only collide but, sometimes, do so by Divine appointment, remember that our confidence lies not in the happening, but in the hand.  It’s the hand of the optometrist that rightly uses the light to check our vision; it’s the hand of the dentist that uses the exact amount of putty and pressure to create a useable mold; and it’s the hand of the blade sharpener that creates a sharp cutting edge.  Tools are used to strengthen and to break down; the outcome lies in the hand that holds it.  What Satan meant for evil, God uses for good.  Our trust is in the Hand, not in the tool.  Paradoxical?  Yes.  Paranormal?  Probably.  Paranoid?  Never…because we know that “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

So let the oddities, the paradoxes, in life continue to surround us; for in them lies our hope, from them emerges our confidence, and through them our faith arises.

paradox parcel