“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:1, NIV)
So a few years ago, I was invited to some friend’s house for a weekend of writing. It’s a beautiful house in an even more beautiful surrounding, perched on a cliff overlooking Guntersville Lake. They’ve got a lot of acreage, so there was plenty of space for long walks that are a part of my creative process. Typically when I set aside a weekend for a writing break, I’ll do a bit of hiking, followed by a bit of writing. The hiking is the download. I listen for God’s voice, meditate, and think through what I’m writing about. Then, the writing itself is the upload. I’ll take what I’ve been listening, thinking, praying through and give it words.
Over dinner, my friends told me about a famous cave on their land, so famous that spelunkers around the country would get permission to descend on their property and traverse the miles of underground caverns it yields. Being a bit of an adventurer myself, I thought that might be a perfect little day hike to think through my writing subject for the day. So I got some rudimentary instructions from my friends on how to find the cave, with instructions not to do anything stupid. (My friends know me all too well.)
On arriving at the cave, I was surprised at how small the opening was. I had expected something much larger considering the pictures I’d seen of the inner caverns, which were, well, cavernous. I didn’t have a flashlight or anything smart like that. But I did have my trusty smartphone with requisite camera flash. Think single, tiny LED light. Not big, but certainly enough to get me around in a cave. (Probably should have checked my battery life before descending into the cave.)
For the first twenty feet or so, I didn’t need any auxiliary light. The light coming through the smallish opening was enough to see my way ahead. But then the cave took a sudden left turn with a significant drop in elevation. I had to turn on my camera light just to figure out how to navigate the turn. With smartphone in one hand, the other on rocks to steady my descent, I scrambled down the narrow tunnel, eliminating all external light sources.
It was spooky. Even with my phone light on, I had this foreboding feeling.
I realized my smartphone light was going to time out at some point. How long had it been on? How long had I been down here? So, just for kicks, I turned my light off. (It’s hard to explain to most people, but sometimes I like scaring myself.) There’s only one word to describe what I felt.
Absolute panic. I’d never been in this kind of darkness before. You couldn’t see your hand two inches from your face. Black was no longer a color, it was a suffocating presence. I could actually feel it. My mind started racing, thinking about all the things that could potentially go wrong, (which I probably should’ve thought through before entering said cave.)
What if my phone runs out of battery and turns off? Why didn’t I check my battery life? Did I even charge it last night? What if I accidentally drop my phone on a rock and break it? Or lose it somehow? Why didn’t I tie a rope or string or something to the world outside so I could make my way back in the dark?
And the scariest thought in that moment: What if I can’t turn it back on?
The complete absence of light was disorienting. I suddenly couldn’t remember which way I was facing in the cave. Which way was out? Which way was up? Without light, I was paralyzed. I couldn’t move.
With a quick flip of my wrist, I turned my LED light back on. Immediately, light flooded the cave, and relief flooded my mind. I could see again. I was reoriented. I could get out. Which I did.
Here’s what I learned about light that day. I call these the three rules of light.
- Light always penetrates darkness.
- A little bit of light goes a long way.
- It’s immediate.
Science agrees. I did a little bit of research on light recently and discovered my findings were accurate. The technical definition of light is electromagnetic radiation. That didn’t help much except to understand that it travels in waves. But unlike a water wave, or a sound wave, it’s not dependent on any matter to carry its energy along. It can travel through a complete vacuum, like space, where there’s complete darkness. And it always dispels darkness, no matter how small the source. A little bit goes a long way fast. In fact, nothing in the universe is faster than light, traveling at 186,286 mps. That’s miles per second friends. I can’t even wrap my head around that.
Now in that context, consider the words of Jesus, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV)
The world can be a pretty dark place. Political intrigue. School shootings. Amber alerts. Wars. Threats of violence. Bullying. Human trafficking. Sex crimes. The list goes on and on. Lots of darkness. Evil. And it’s pretty easy to be overcome by all of it. Becoming negative and critical, always trying to figure out who’s at fault, pointing fingers, picking sides. Or cynically throwing up our hands, proclaiming, “the world’s going to Hell in a hand basket!” Or simply avoiding it, playing it safe, always insulating ourselves from darkness, hoping it won’t invade our lives, or the lives of those we love.
As if there’s nothing we can do.
Until we remember the three rules of light:
- It always overcomes darkness.
- A little bit goes a long way.
- And nothing works faster.
“You are the light of the world.”
Don’t be overcome by the darkness in our world. Be a light. Don’t become overcome by evil. Overcome evil with good. And there are unlimited ways to be a light in a dark world.
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
- Tutor some struggling kids in a failing school.
- Mentor some at-risk teenagers.
- Visit the lonely at the retirement home.
- Comfort moms whose babies are in the NICU.
- Sit with cancer patients undergoing chemo and radiation.
- Teach English as a second language.
- Be a sponsor at an AA gathering.
- Volunteer, give or help raise money for a human trafficking organization
Anywhere there’s darkness, you can offer up light. And remember, a little bit of light goes a long way…and fast.
So don’t let yourself be overcome by darkness. You are the light of the world. Stop criticizing, pointing fingers, picking sides, or simply avoiding it. Bring the light! And make the world a better, brighter place for all of us.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!