I love watching the antics of the squirrels that frequent my back yard and that of my next door neighbor. Sometimes they seem very serious as they go about their business of searching for food, eating and occasionally storing it. At other times, they are utterly silly, suddenly chasing each other, rolling on the ground and scrambling full tilt up a nearby tree. Their faces can be so expressive.
After writing yesterday about how my heart longs for the Light, it occurred to me that this is true only some of the time.
Allow me to explain.
When I think of light, I quite naturally think of "created" light, i.e. the light that I see from the sun (created by God) or from light bulbs (created by people). Generally, I find that I enjoy the light. I love sunny days and mourn the passing of the longer days of summer sunlight.
However, there are times when I might prefer to avoid the light. If I have a migraine or if I'm trying to sleep, I might prefer a dark room to an open sunny one. And, while most of the time I'm grateful that I can turn on a light to help me see, there may also be times when I prefer not to see or be seen. Darkness covers. Light exposes.
In the image above, received last month while wandering the yard with my camera, a squirrel-friend appears to be expressing similar ambivalence about having been spotted in the light of evening sun. He looks, in fact, rather alarmed.
As with the created light, the uncreated Light of the Holy One may be met with mixed reactions.
Many people who have described near-death experiences relate an irresistibly loving Light to which they feel drawn. Coming back to this life, by contrast, is related as almost a let-down. Deep prayer and meditation can leave some people filled with a sense of sacred Light that is wondrous beyond description.
On the other hand, some people (like me) feel rather alarmed when reflecting on the following Scripture passage:
For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible,
and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.
Although the footnotes explain that this is referring to the mysteries of the Kingdom of God being made known to all, I still cannot help but squirm. Like the squirrel, I don't like the light giving me away when I thought I was safely hidden with my secrets in the darkness.
In other words, I am a sinner. I carry within me memories of experiences that bring a sense of shame. I would like to meet that wondrous, holy Light - but if it means that all must be uncovered and everything must be exposed by the Light...well then, maybe I'll pass.
Or so it might be if I had not learned anything from the other 6 holy pauses: hope, peace, grace, mercy, love and joy.
Left to our own imaginations, we may picture ourselves with the police interrogation room lights beating down on us as God's "light" accuses and condemns. But rather than just a prison door clanging shut, we may imagine something far worse, especially if we have been raised with images of angry God and hell fires.
But we have learned otherwise. For we have come to know of such things as grace and mercy and love. We have heard of our God:
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our sins from us.
(Psalm 103: 12)
And we know that east never meets west, i.e. I could head east around the earth, end up where I started from and still be going east. I will not have met west.
In other words, it is not the plan of the uncreated Light of God to expose and condemn. Rather, the Light of the holy One separates us from our sins and shame so completely that we will never have to encounter them again. They are gone.
So why, the curious reader might ask, do I still carry around those shameful memories if I don't have to? A very, very good question.
The gift of mercy has already been given. We don't have to beg for it.
All we need to do is accept the gift and allow our lives to be transformed.
(To help us imagine this transformation, I'm sharing here an image of how a bit grass gone to seed was transformed by the setting sun. And this created light is but a hint of the uncreated Light of its Maker ...)