COLUMN: All the light we cannot see

Published 10:21 am Monday, February 26, 2024

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Precious few things can capture the eyes of practically the entire world. But as I remember, between June 23 and July 10, 2017, a drama that played out in Thailand caused practically all of us to watch daily. 

You may remember that a team of twelve junior soccer players named The Wild Boars and one of their assistant coaches had gone into a popular cave system near the village of Pong Pha there in Thailand. 

The rescue itself was dangerous and complicated. It took several days to locate them. Several more days to assess the options and yet more days to carry out the plan. One responder died, so dangerous was the effort.

Now safely back and being cared for medically, team members were kept under strict dietary and overall health controls in order to reorient their bodies back to more normal conditions we take for granted outside a cave.

Noteworthy, they wore dark sunglasses. Only incrementally were they allowing for small exposures to light because the boys had been there long enough that their eyes had become used to mostly pitch black darkness.  

Their eyes, after that prolonged time below ground, couldn’t tolerate even a normal amount of light that you and I depend on to get around. Life is like that sometimes. If we see enough darkness, we eventually begin to adjust to that as a new normal. We lose awareness that there even is light anywhere around sometimes. 

In fact, on this first Sunday of Lent, we willingly and faithfully walk into what can sometimes feel like the subterranean world of darkness and disappointment as we journey with our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

Let’s face it. Like the members of that soccer team, the very best our faith can offer is indeed required at times in order for us to trust in all the light that we cannot see. 

In the forty days of Lent, we will focus on the epistles of the New Testament for any light they might shine on Jesus’ experience among us. They will provide the rays of hope that could illuminate the paths we walk. 

The word picture presented here in 1 Peter draws on the best of what his audience, and us two thousand years later, might remember from the Genesis story of Noah and the Ark. Talk about dark times. 

In an episode that raises dark questions both about humanity and a God who would wipe out Creation and start over, flood waters threatened the totality of life itself. The water washed over the Earth’s surface in a mysterious, troubling and cosmic act of cleansing. 

So, too, does our scripture today call us back to our baptisms. But in a positive, challenging way. To live as people who have been cleansed and renewed unto newness of life in Christ. We have, as many ministers bid us as we come up out of the Baptistery waters, a chance to “rise and walk in newness of life!” 

Saved from water in Genesis. Saved by water in 1 Peter’s view because of the transformation that is supposed to take us from darkness of life into the light of Jesus Christ. Saved by water in 1 Peter’s view because of the transformation that is supposed to take us from darkness of life into the light of Jesus Christ

These words were written to an audience that were as oppressed and dominated by the religious persecution and the overall corruption of the Holy Roman Empire. This was a dark era on a global scale, so vast were the conquests and holdings of the Roman Empire. 

We may not know what it’s like to live in an oppressive system like that. We should be thankful we don’t. But we do know from our own living that we are subject to forces that are beyond our control. 

You and I have experienced our own chapters where we were walking in some version of darkness. When it’s your turn, when it’s my turn, that fear is real.

In this season, I want to remind us all. Only mature, developed and owned faith can be proven lasting when life administers the toughest tests. When life grabs the switch and turns down the light. 

But here may be the best news of the sometimes challenging, sometimes dark days of the Lenten journey together. Simply put, one of the things that Jesus Christ makes possible is for us to believe in all of the light, even when we cannot see it.

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.