"Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. -Genesis 1:3
Light was God's very first gift to the world. "God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness." -Genesis 1:4
But why was the light so good? Why is light bestowed upon the world before fish swim in the sea, or mountains cover the land or Adam walks in the garden?
The answer is simple. If God had begun to create the beautiful world he had imagined to make brightly colored fish and snow-capped mountains and humankind from his own image- and had not yet given light to the world, the beauty in all of these things would have been hidden beneath darkness. What good would it have been if, at the end of each of the six days of creation, God was not able to take a step back and review his marvelous works? (answer: not much good at all)
This same logic can be applied to our lives today. What good do we do if each day we walk around complaining about everything from the mysterious food in our cafeteria to the lack of money in our bank accounts? (cue college) For some reason, a number of people seem to share a common attitude that stinkin'-thinkin' (a phrase dubbed by my previous church youth director) is hip and cool. It is shocking how many people enjoy sharing their complaints with others, thus spreading the "stink". With enough participation in stinkin'-thinkin', a small population can easily become metaphorically smelly. After a while, this attitude becomes a dirty habit, and all the light and blessings God gives us are covered in darkness.
However, the same powers of the word of mouth can also be used in a positive manner. If we make a conscious decision each day to think and act in a way that is enlightening to others and ourselves, we can eventually do away with all of the overhanging shadows that stinkin'-thinkin' creates.
I have found that focusing on the light in the world is much more fulfilling and much simpler than focusing on the darkness. When I sit down and read God's word or think about him anytime during the day, I feel such an extent of joy that all I want to do is share it with others. I pray daily for God to use me to be a light in His world and to be a better person the next day than I was the previous. I pray that uses me to spread His light through my actions, words and prayers. This routine leaves little time for getting bogged down in a gloomy mindset. Instead, I have learned to dismiss the temptations of darkness and welcome opportunities to spread light.
In the Parable of the Lamp in Mark, Jesus presents the metaphor of an illuminated lamp. He asks, "Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine." -Mark 4:21 We, as God's children, are called to be luminescent lanterns such as the one in the parable. God gave us life and light, therefore we must use it to enlighten the world.
On the last night of the summer youth conference at Montreat- aka the happiest place on earth (sorry Disney)- everyone at that weeks' conference gathers around Lake Susan for a candlelight service. Over 1,000 people stand around the circumference of the lake holding a candle, but all anyone can see across from them is a lot of tiny flames. I remember my first Montreat candlelight service just as vividly as I do the last, 4 years later. Each year represented a powerful closing to an inspiring week. As a rising high school freshman the first year, I was one of the first groups called to blow out my candle. However, this past summer, I was the very last to do so. This was an extremely emotional moment. By the time the worship leader called out "graduated seniors," I was already a basket-case. I started crying at the beginning of the candle-diminishing when everyone sang the hymn "Sanctuary," I burst into full-on sobbing mode when rising high school Sophomores blew out their candles (this was my brother's group), and completely fell apart when graduated seniors were asked to blow their candles out. (I cried more in those five minutes than I cry total throughout the rest of any given year.)
However, after I wiped the last tear from my eye, I realized that blowing out my candle on the lake did not mean that the light was gone from my life. Instead, this ceremony reminded me that it was up to me (along with the other 1,000 conference attendees and workers...and the rest of God's people) to take God's light with me as I went back out into the world. This idea has been reaffirmed in my heart this week during multiple campus ministry meetings. I am thankful for the gentle reminders such as these that encourage me to be a source of light, even in the darkest times. Another one of my favorite Montreat hymns sums up this idea pretty well: "Light of the world, you stepped down into darkness, open my eyes, let me see."
Maybe if we all opened ourselves up to God's light, we could make a big difference. I challenge you to try.