I am beginning this post rather late because I just finished watching a captivating 60 minute video on prayer. The speaker (Anthony Bloom) had many interesting reflections but one thing in particular caught my attention at the beginning of his talk: his use of the phrase, "to see in a new light".
This familiar idiom, of course, stood out to me because I have been reflecting on light all week.
What does that mean, "to see in a new light"?
While I don't know the origins of the saying, my imagination stirs up an image. I am straining to see an something in a dark or dusky location and, being unsuccessful, turn on a light (or take the item somewhere else) to see it in a "new light".
In other words, if I can't see clearly where I am, I'll try a new light and perhaps I shall see more clearly.
(Of course, as an idiom, it means more than this. The phrase is typically used to suggest rethinking, re-evaluating or gaining a new perspective.)
Ironically, quite a number of things he said about prayer caused me to see it "in a new light". For example, he told a rather amusing story about how he had a bad quarrel with his good friend as an adolescent and he decided that he was never going to forgive him.
However, this created a problem for him every time he tried to say the Lord's prayer and he got to the part about "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". He brought his dilemma to his priest and was told that he should not say anything in prayer that isn't true.
He tried out some alternatives, such asking God to heap burning coals on his own head since he wanted to heap them on the head of his friend. But that didn't work for him because he wanted to be forgiven. For the same reason, it didn't work when he tried to skip over that part of the prayer.
Finally, he was able to say the Lord's prayer, with his priest's approval, as "forgive me as much as I wish I could forgive my friend". After a year of saying it this way, he and his friend finally reconciled.
Although it doesn't seem like this should be so surprising, the speaker's emphasis on the importance of truth in prayer caused me to see it in a different light. Certainly it is not as though, prior to hearing this message, I was in the habit of lying to God. But, often enough, prayer can come from somewhere other than the deepest truth of one's heart.
Prayers can be recited because we were taught them. We may say them because we have been told that it is "good" to do so. They may be expected of us in certain situations or we participate because we don't want to be left out. But no prayer is good for me if I cannot say it and have it be true.
This small example causes me to consider how many things I routinely look at in "an old light".
I may have an established way of looking at myself that has been with me for so long that I consider it to be "true" and not open to a different perspective.
I may have a certain way of looking at the world, religion, politics, other people (and countless other things) because that is how I have always seen them. It doesn't occur to me that I might not be seeing them clearly and should try a new light.
And, of course, I may have a particular way of looking at - or thinking about - God.
I may conceive of God as an angry old man sitting on a throne, deciding moment by moment who gets to live and who gets to die. Or I might view him an amorphous spirit who brought everything into being but has now lost interest. Or I might even think of him as a myth, a fairy tale invented to make people feel better about their pointless existence.
Regardless of what my "old light" may be regarding God, it is very likely that I have one. Very few of us have grown up without any images or ideas about God, whether positive or negative. As with our other well-established views, it may not occur to us that there may different "lights" than the one in which we currently view things.
As the saying goes, it is what it is.
Or is it?
If you are at all like me, you have had experiences like the one I just described about truth and prayer. I wasn't conscious that I didn't demand that my prayers be true. I just hadn't really thought of it that way before. So my perspective on the "what it is" was modified a bit when I viewed it in a different light.
But there is even more here.
It has been written:
"God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all."
(1 John 1:5).
The meaning here is not that God is like the sun - only bigger. Rather, in God, there is nothing hidden. Truth is revealed in His presence. And it is a truth that loves and desires to help us - to see what we cannot otherwise see, to understand what we cannot otherwise understand.
In Him, there is no more being confused or lost or afraid.
My spiritual brother, Rodger, was again kind enough to share an image and reflection for this week of Light. He too apparently loves the evening light, having received the image of this grand old tree as it was illumined by the setting sun.
(photo by Rodger, used with permission; minor editing by me.)
He sent me an e-mail today to say that the image helped him remember "how God shows his brilliance right before or after a dark night".
Indeed. There is no denying that life holds its "dark nights" - some of them very dark. So dark that we cannot see. And we may not even know that there is any alternative to the darkness.
Come along with me, you who are in dark nights.
Step out of the "old light" and into the brilliance of His new light. Do not be afraid.
Allow the light of His truth to love you and lead you, right now, tonight. And forever...for, even if you slip back into darkness, His truth is always waiting for you to come back.