Monday, May 29, 2017

The Darkest Darkness

In Carlsbad Caverns, a memorable experience of any cave tour is when you have ventured deep within the caverns and it is time to turn out the lights. We were hiking by lantern. When our ranger asked us to blow out each candle that illuminated our path, our pulses sped up.

The flame of my lantern flickered and went out. One after another, our lanterns snuffed into smoke and warm wicks and darkness shut around us.

I've never been in such darkness that I could almost reach out and touch it. This darkness seemed to have a texture. Breathing it in felt thick and shaky. Standing within it was overwhelming.

The most interesting part of standing in total darkness over a thousand feet underground was the human brain's reaction. Although there was truly no source of light in this cavern, my mind played tricks on me.

"Can you see each other's outlines in the dark?" the ranger asked us. "Wave your hand in front of your eyes. Can you see it? The truth is that you can't see your hand. You can't see each other. But your brain is compensating for the total darkness by imagining that it sees these shapes." Stunned, I waved my hand in front of my eyes and felt certain I could see the outline of my fingers.

When the first candle flickered and light slowly made its way back into the depths of our cavern, I realized that the ranger was speaking truth. People weren't standing exactly how I thought I had seen them. I had stood in such overwhelming darkness that my mind had made up light.

Sin is like the true darkness deep inside Carlsbad Caverns. The more immersed you are in the overwhelming darkness of your sin, the more you are blinded to the reality of how lost you are, at how absorbed you are in that darkness.

Justification is one way that we blind ourselves to our sin. "I'm looking at photographs and not videos, so I do not have problems with pornography." "I'll pay her back, so this isn't really stealing." "Stretching the truth isn't lying."

Comparison is another way. "My friend has one night stands all the time; sex with my girlfriend isn't like that." "She is an actual gossip; what I'm doing is really just expressing worry." "I'm barely a bad person compared to him."

Ephesians 5:8-13 and 15 says, "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light... and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness. ...Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity." Even as Christians we will find ourselves blinded (by our own sin and our own decisions, yet blinded all the same). We must intentionally put aside justifications and comparisons until our sin struggles are visible in our own eyes and we can work to make the most of every opportunity to live more like Christ.

The truth of Jesus is like that flickering flame that turned a dark cavern into a warm and visible space. It changed everything about that room - even the structure of how my mind comprehended what was around me. Light changed everything.

1 John 1:6-7 says, "If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."

Do not allow yourself to walk in the darkness of your sin, imagining that you can clearly see the right way to go. What might seem like the faint outline of a road at your feet may very well be your mind playing tricks as you teeter at the edge of a chasm. Ask the Lord to reveal your sins and guide you in wisdom and truth. Let him shine a light into every facet of your life.

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