I love Christmas lights. I love how they twinkle. I love how they attract the eye. I love how they remind me that light is more powerful than darkness.
Every year My family hops into the car, kids in jimmies and Santa hats with their sweet hands around their mugs of hot cocoa, and we go on a Christmas light adventure. We will drive to a neighborhood and at each intersection my husband will ask the kids if we should go left, right, or straight. We venture on in the dark of night, aimlessly wandering through the neighborhoods, hopefully searching for the light.
When we find a house that has gone all out, we slow down, the car gets quiet, and we gaze at the display. It doesn’t matter if the lights are perfectly lined up or haphazardly strewn, it is the light that silences us into an awed hush.
There is something compelling about light in darkness. No matter how many years we have done the routine, it still draws us and woos us. Nothing about that has ever changed.
What did change this year was when the lights came down.
The twinkling outlines not longer light up houses, happy-faced inflatable were deflated and stuffed back into boxes, trees decorated with memories no longer stood tall in windows. The nights were just plain, cold, dark winter nights again.
As January crept into view, the reality that it came cloaked in darkness was suffocating. I found myself not just yearning for lights on houses and trees, but light in my heart as well. As physical lights came down, the soul-protection of hope seemed to crumble as well, leaving me in a stifling darkness.
In my experience, lies tend to have a heyday in darkness. Lies that feed some of my deepest fears come out to playing full force. They whisper of failure, of inadequacy, of humiliation, and ultimately that one day I will find that God had abandoned me in my overly-messy, imperfect, tangled up journey.
After Christmas it seemed that every corner of my mind was filled with landmines of lies for me to trip on. And trip on them, I did. They exploded all around me, crippling my soul, paralyzing my dreams, and drowning out truth. The clouds of dust and debris kicked up grayed the skies and infected the air.
One cold morning as I was attempting to do dishes, I found myself standing in my kitchen, gripping the counter. Without even realizing it, I stood still so I could soak in the light that was pouring through the window. It was as if my soul was craving vitamin D. I stood there for what felt like hours while my kids raced around the house and the dog pushed her food bowl to my feet. I did not move. I wasn’t even sure if I could move. Every part of me was working in slow motion as I began to embrace the epiphany that was being formed.
I NEEDED TO LET THE LIGHT IN.
Light was the only thing that would reveal the landmines of lies for what they were and keep me from being ensnared by them.
I raced around my house opening curtains, blinds, and even the front door despite the below freezing temperatures. It was as if letting physical light in would illuminate my soul as well, or at least be a first step. But as I raced around I realized there were still darkened corners and hallways. There were still areas where I could crouch in the darkness if I chose to do so, and that was true with my soul as well.
Light could stream in as bright as possible and I could still live mostly in the shadows. I not only need to let the light in, but I needed to receive the light as well. I didn’t just need to open curtains but I also needed to stand in the door way. I not only needed to open blinds on my soul, but I needed to posture myself to let God’s truth soak in be it through authentic words from close friends, theologically powerful song lyrics, divine radiance of nature, or the anchoring pronouncement of Scripture. These things could not help the soul-darkness unless I could receive them.
What is it about the posture of receiving that is so stinking hard?
For me, having my arms open, ready to accept something means I am vulnerable. I cannot stand like I do when I strap on my pink boxing gloves and throw punches at our punching bag. If I want to receive, I cannot stands with both hands up, covering my face and ready to defend or attack at any moment. No, instead I have to standing with arms stretched out and open. To receive feels very exposing. And it is.
But as I stood in the kitchen, grabbing the counter, soaking in the rays through my window I realized that the only way to get the much needed light was to make myself vulnerable enough to receive it. I have to not nervously laugh it off when true words are spoken over me. Instead, I need to ponder them. I need to not breeze through scripture when it tugs on my soul. Instead, I need to hide it in my heart. I need to not just tap my foot to the beat of a song. Instead, I need to mull on the lyrics. If I don’t, it will be just like opening the curtains but the sitting in the shadowed corner.
I must step into it and let darkness be overcome by the power of the light. Like the Christmas light drives, I need to be slowed and hushed by the twinkling lights so that I can get the full effect. So here I sit, arms open, palms up, learning one day at a time what it means to receive and let the light in.