I can't tell you how much joy this picture brings me, or the kind of freedom it evokes. After two weeks of helping a group of rural youth engage YWAM's Urban Plunge missions trip, I was exhausted. We spent our last day traipsing around Granville Island, enjoying some down time, and were walking back to our quarters when we passed English Bay Beach. Most of the kids stopped momentarily to absorb the coming sunset but were too tired and hungry to stay long. A couple remained behind to frolic in the water, as other families gathered for a warm West Coast night.
Massive driftwood logs, strategically scattered around the beach, made for a perfect perch to watch the kids staying behind while keeping a full frontal view of the sunset. Ships further out in the bay came and went, the sun dropped lower and lower in the sky, children squealed while splashing each other down in the unusual Vancouver heat wave. It was magic.
Father Greg Boyle writes:
"Jesus says, 'You are the light of the world.' I like even more of what Jesus doesn't say. He does not say, 'One day, if you are more perfect and try really hard, you'll be light.' He doesn't say, 'If you play by the rules, cross your T's and dot your I's, then maybe you'll become light." No. He says, straight out, 'You are light.' [emphasis added] It is the truth of who you are, waiting only for you to discover it. So, for God's sake, don't move. No need to contort yourself to be anything other than you are." (Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion)
I read these words this afternoon and felt again the legs of my once-sturdy 3-legged stool become wobbly. I became afraid. I had no foundation. For so much of my life, I forced myself to strive for perfection. I couldn't be loved unless I was perfect. I was garbage. I was nothing. How does one break away from the myth of perfection? If perfection is the only way to God's love, how does one cease striving so hard when God's love is the only thing truly desired or desirable?
Not easily, I'll tell you that.
Having broken bones healed the wrong way re-broken is a messy business. Having false sandy foundations blown apart is terrifying. Never mind having no place to stand, without bones there's no stability to stand with.
"You are the light of the world…" I've heard Jesus speaking these words since birth, but I always heard them with this strange attachment: "You are the light of the world so that you can be and do A,B,C,D and E. Otherwise, you suck."
"You are light…"
Months ago, I began rolling those words around in my mouth. It felt like a bunch of marbles were banging against my teeth, keeping my tongue from talking.
"You *are* light…"
I'm already light.
Those enslaved and exploited are already light.
(deep gulp)… those doing the enslaving are light. Perhaps their light has become extinguished or hidden along the way, but light exists nonetheless.
We are light.
What is light?
We don't become light after we've accomplished a set of ceremony… ritual… church… prayer… dance or song.
Ceremony, ritual, church (true church), prayer, song and dance emerge because of the nature of Light. Free, boundless, unchained. Pure energy as it is full-bodied. People look at us and are blinded… comforted… led… warmed… reminded that the seasons are changing… gathered… welcomed… convicted. Likewise, we too are so human when we look at others and our beings respond to the Light we encounter.
As I pondered on us human beings being light, my mind drifted to the concept of the narrow and broad ways. Coming on the heels of His salt and light metaphors, Jesus goes on to say, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14).
Traditionally it has been taught that only a select few will find the coveted narrow gate, while the majority of our doomed population will choose the broad (aka "easy" way). I began to think of this verse another way, in light of… Light.
It's true that in our broken world, the narrow gate to life is difficult to find. In fact, it is a path so narrow that only one person at a time can move forward on it, hampered by boulders and brambles. One can't see very far ahead, but moves along anyway because… we're Light.
Instead of the image of one or two clever righteous folk discovering the narrow way, I see a long string of straggly strangers, unknown to one another but on the same path. Treacherous and often filled with sorrow, they are drawn together by the same light Christ has created them with.
Suddenly… one of them finds the gate. She is so overcome with gratitude that it's been found that she heaves her whole body against it so that it will open. Instead of racing in first, letting the gate swing shut behind her, she holds herself against that gate welcoming in the next person behind her, and the person after that, and the person after that. One by one. Some enter right away; others move on for a time, not ready to enter; and still others shuffle back around those coming behind. They're going to get as many others as they can.
And the broad way leading to destruction?
Oh sure… we've all found it. We've all been on it.
Right now, there's one person wandering around its expanse — maybe two.
And wouldn't ya know it?
Those walking that narrow way carefully manouver themselves across cliffs and around thorny bushes to come back and be Light. Some people are so radically brilliant, they can't help but shine in the darkest places. Not because they are super-holy; but because they have lived lives told that they have no light to give or be. Once they discovered Jesus' truth, it was far too good a thing to let anyone else miss out.
As I always say about both water and light: "They are created to fill, not to fit."