After the mildly impersonal nature of my last post, which was necessary, I want to tell a bit of my own story in how I met the Light in discipleship and Body life. I think that it matters, because when I speak now in defense of the Light, I speak as someone who used to hate it unapologetically.
In many ways, my story is pretty common. I grew up in the church and then exploded into rebellion when I went away to college. I avoided all things Christian like the plague, and when I couldn’t, I usually attacked them. I briefly flirted with atheism, but in the end, I couldn’t shake the fact that I knew God existed. Plus, I was incapable of pretending indifference on the subject. I hated God and I really hated the people who claimed to be His.
I discovered something funny along the way, however. The unintended consequence of passionately hating God is that He is never far from your thoughts. I simply couldn’t escape Him, and it was a maddening torment. He showed up everywhere in my life. He sang to me through an old Irish ballad in my favorite pub. His beauty broke my heart when I stared at the stars. His Truth showed up in the strangest places, like Joss Whedon’s Firefly and most of Guy Gavriel Kay’s books. No matter how far I fell, He was there.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light around me will be night”—
even the darkness is not dark to You.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to You.
Psalm 139:11-12 HCSB
I tell you this so that you’ll know I’m not exaggerating when I call my conversion “reluctant.” It’s not an accident, or even remarkable, that my salvation was a years long process. You can lay down your arms in an act of surrender, yet refuse to submit—and that’s what I did. The majority of my wounds were the result of legalism, so even though God had airlifted me out of death and brokenness into His own sanctuary with people who loved me, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The sheer magnitude of love and longsuffering that was given to me by Martha and John and the rest of His Body still makes me cry when I think about it. I made porcupines seem cuddly by comparison! And it was in that state that I first met the Light.
The Light was just relentless. It was everywhere! But it wasn’t what I thought it would be. I was braced for hypocrisy, scorn, condemnation, judgment, reproach and perpetual disappointment from the Body. So I was never prepared for the Light when it came – ha! I have never been so off-balance and so consistently wrong in my “discernment” in my whole life as I was in those early days.
God didn’t speak to me a great deal in those years; instead, He showed me things. Mostly in private, between the two of us, God consistently humiliated my pride, my mighty “I know.” Because I’m slow on the uptake, it took a long time to see what He was doing. Bit by bit, piece by piece, the Light was exposing the lies about God that I believed were true. Every Lieutenant Dan moment that I had – I wish it had been only one! – was answered by the Light. With so much light shining on the darkness of my heart, I couldn’t avoid the thought that I might not know the truth about God.
Even as this internal battle waged inside me, I was watching the people around me. I saw accountability in a whole new way. I’d always thought that “accountability” was just another word for Christian hypocrisy, a way to expose someone else for the purpose of elevating yourself even though you did the same thing. I’d never witnessed actual humility in action before, and it was shocking.
I also watched a confrontation initiated by the Holy Spirit – not ego, and not “I know.” Just LOVE, uncompromising and unrelenting. There were no winners or losers here, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 8:23). I didn’t see any competition for “Godliest Temperament” or “Most Virtuous.” I saw the Light in and on this group of people, and it was unlike any church experience I’d ever had.
Though I had yet to be born again into a new creation, God was orchestrating my salvation when I first met the Light. I came to the Lord covered, coated in lies about the Light. I had faith in these lies. And the Light was undeterred. My wounded, wicked heart was no match for the Light that shone so brightly—and where I least wanted it to shine. The Light is Love. It shines for Love’s sake.
As a child, I responded to my genuine wounding with hate and rage and a vengeful spirit. God’s face was put on that initial wounding, and I kept it there, so every encounter with the Body – every encounter with HIM – was painful in some way. Hardly a day went by in those 2–1/2 years that a wound didn’t get bumped or pushed or punched. It was more excruciating than not. And though I did experience comfort and healing, that wasn’t God’s goal. His goal was my full reconciliation with Him through the life and blood of His only Son. So He sent the Light to shine on me, and it’s the greatest kindness, the highest love I’ve ever known.
I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.
John 12:46 NKJV