(Part 3) The Line in the Sand - Chapter 12. - In The Light
Wow! What a difficult place to wake up! I am so glad that Jesus whispered my name and kept on poking me until I woke up! I was abruptly awakened in the darkness, shading my eyes from the blinding light. At first, because of the nature of my then present character traits, I saw the light as a BAD thing!
It was "bad" when I considered that the next few things I had to do would radically alter life-as-I-knew-it. My next choices would shatter what my spouse knew to be the truth about me and our life together. New history would have to be written and experienced as the "true" truth was shared for the first time. Tremendous amounts of grief and feelings of betrayal would have to be endured. I would have to take ownership of, and responsibility for, all my past choices, and how they hurt the people closest to me. I would have to reveal who I really was, and suffer whatever consequences came my way. I was sure that I would be rejected, kicked out on the street, and abandoned as the trash I believed myself to be. I thought I would lose everything and have to start over.
I was partly right. I had to lose everything. What I mean by losing everything isn't so simple to explain. Nor is it easy to do. When I finally got to the point where I knew and understood that on my own I couldn't get any better than the wretch I was, I discovered that I was ready to have someone help me. I am still amazed that when I was finally ready, Jesus was right there holding out His tender, strong hand for me to hold. I wasn't all alone any more. He was ready to take it all on. So all I had to do was make the choice to give it all to Him.
I'm reminded of the "Footprints" poem. As I look back, right here and now, I can only see one set of footprints in the sand for my whole life. That was when He was carrying me to protect me from harm. I can't explain it, and yet I know He's holding me right now, too. It just "kills me" that He loves me and that He even cares about me. I haven't done anything ... wait! I have only done one thing to deserve it. I have accepted His free gift. I have acknowledged that He gave up His life for all of my sins. Anything else that I could give will fall way short of being enough.
I had to start over. New beginning. I went from being a child of my earthly father to a precious new child of the King in an instant! Born again. All I did was surrender, meekly waving my white flag just above the rim of my foxhole. I couldn't take the battle any more. There were too many casualties. There were deeply wounded people, whom I loved, just looking sadly at me with a question in their eyes, "Why?" I couldn't stand the lies anymore. I couldn't keep up with managing my stupid, double life. I couldn't stand my reprehensible character. As I looked inward I just found myself disgusting. My heart account was way overdrawn and I was stealing emotional deposits from anyone who would get near.
Oh, God was I sad. I so much wanted to start over from scratch, to call a mulligan, or a re-do. I wanted to take it all back. Here I was a new creation in Christ, and I hurt so badly that all I could do was cry. I cried for the little boy inside me that had never had a chance to grow up in a good way. I cried for the lost times of not living in the light with my precious bride. I cried for the hurt I had caused to the people closest to me, the people who I loved more than any others in the whole world. I cried for the pain I had caused my Savior to endure on the cross for my sins. I cried because I knew I wasn't worth His sacrifice. I cried because I was cleansed and purified by a God who loves me "just the way I am."
I had to take ownership for my actions and how they hurt others. I found myself completely ready to listen to the people I had wronged, and to offer my confessions of how badly I had hurt them. I knew in my heart I was completely forgiven, which was a foreign concept to me. To the best of my knowledge, I had never *really* forgiven anyone for anything. It wasn't until I had received His forgiveness that I had any shred of understanding about what it means to forgive and to be forgiven. It was because of His complete forgiveness that I was ready to ask those people to forgive me for my wrongs. I was willing to accept their forgiveness if they were ready to forgive, however, it was most important for me to make the effort to confess and ask them for their forgiveness.
In order to set things back in their correct place, I had to write the true history. The true history included all of the lies I had told about the places I had been and the things I had done. The history had to include all of my sins, including the most painful for my bride to hear. I had to confess a lifetime of self-management that I had done to attempt to maintain my image to others. I had to walk, or trudge, through the trail of muck I had left behind, and reveal it for exactly what it was; sin against and separation from God. It took a while to get that all back in order. It also emotionally crushed my bride, because she had to re-write part of her history, too.
Remember here that the consequences of our choices can be greater than we could ever imagine. Shining the light on the sin will also shine the light on those consequences. Be reassured that any consequence you might face is OK... Just be ready to endure it, and accept it. You'll have a guide in the light, and your character will grow stronger as a result!
I had to reveal my true character. Ouch! It is difficult to refrain from calling myself bad names here. I sometimes have to force myself to remember that I am a precious child of the King!
Most importantly, I had to change! In order to overcome the devastation I had created through my actions, I HAD to change from who I was to more closely resemble what God intended me to be. I had to begin on the inside by inspecting the darkness, and now that the light was shining on everything in there it was pretty easy to see. I had to seek out the help I needed. I had to reveal all these things to some people I didn't even know, my counselors. I had to live my life with intention, and my intentions had to be good and be known by others. My character had to be rebuilt from the rubble much like the wall of Jerusalem in Nehemiahís day - one piece at a time while under attack.
Part of the change was to acknowledge my weaknesses and to set up accountability regarding my choices. Another aspect was to evaluate and understand what it looked like to be under attack. I also needed to keep on track with all the good things that I had put in motion so far. I had to keep up the counseling, and the group meetings I was attending. I had to do the hard work of rebuilding my character one brick at a time.
The change was not instantaneous by any means, and is still ongoing. This book is a part of my program to rebuild my character. This is but one brick in the wall, and reflects, on most days, where I'm at right then! As a result of staying on task, my faith is growing and my Love for the Savior is getting stronger. However, I can't take the credit for anything, because if it were up to me, and I were left to my own devices, and under my own power, I'd still be back there in worse shape now than I was then. I owe the credit to Jesus. Lovingly and persistently, He kept pressing on my heart. Poke, poke. Whisper, whisper. "Hey, Scott, wake up."
I awoke, trapped in the darkness, filled with shame, found guilty and sentenced to death. A short and stabbing sentence whispered into my darkness was all it took to bring about the beginning to the end of the darkness. "You have to tell." Jesus spoke gently, as I thought about the humongous consequences after I said the things I needed to say to the most important, most precious person I know. "She will hate me." I said back, trying to justify in my dark place that she surely doesn't need to know everything.
"You have to tell," Jesus repeated with greater love than I had ever known. As the magnitude of telling everything to her washed over me, I felt like I wanted to die. Sadly, I thought seriously about taking my own life. I thought for a while that it was possibly the less painful of the choices I was facing. I really knew then, even in the depth of the pain, as I know now - that is absolutely the wrong choice.
Somehow, knowing that God's mercy was on me because He hadn't commuted the death sentence yet, I turned to the only thing I knew. I cried. I was helpless and afraid. I didn't know what was going to happen next and I didn't want to face it either! My fear was so great that I actually wailed, "No!" over and over again, until my throat hurt.
...Ok, because this is a living book, I have to share this story. As I was reading in my quiet time about a week after writing this section, I discovered the following verses in the Psalms:
(Psalms 69:1-3) "Save me, God, For the waters have come up to my neck! I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold. I have come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying. My throat is dry. My eyes fail, looking for my God."
I praise God for His Word. Not only do I need to spend much time reading it, I actually desire to be in it, discovering who God is, and what He wants me to be. His Word is the light! ...
You will sometimes find the darkness reaching out to try to overcome the light which has begun to shine within. The truth is, the darkness can try to creep in and take over, to push out the light and reclaim its old territory, but it never will. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness hasn't overcome it!
All we have to do is go back to the beginning to find our hope in the light. We have stepped out of the darkness and into the light, and we're starting over fresh anyway, so why not?
(John 1:1-5) "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn't overcome it."
We possess a level of wisdom in knowing there is darkness and there is light. We also have abundant hope in knowing there is a line in the sand between the two, and that God has provided the Light so we don't have to walk in the darkness - especially after we know the difference!
(John 8:12) "Again, therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.'"
(Psalms 23:4a) "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me."
Not death, which should be the penalty for our sins. Not eternal separation from God, in an instant, because that's exactly what we deserve. As we walk through this life with its dangerous, difficult, and even life-threatening situations and circumstances, we sometimes find ourselves in that valley. There is the possibility that we could die in the very next instant. And yet, we do not have to be afraid of the darkness if we are following Christ and walking in the light of life.
He is the light of the world. If we follow Him we will not walk in the darkness. We will instead have the light of life. Not the fear of darkness, or of death, but the freedom to live out life to the fullest, with the most joy possible.
(John 12:46) "I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in the darkness."
Until the light was shining in my cavern, revealing all the secrets I had attempted to push down and hide in there, I remained trapped in the darkness. There was no other way out. I tried to break free, but after trying for years to fix it myself, I finally discovered it was hopeless for me to break free by myself. However, in the instant that I believed in Him, I immediately knew I wouldn't have to remain in the darkness. As I accepted Jesus and all that goes with acknowledging Him for who He is, I had hope. I felt the burden of guilt, shame and a lifetime of sin, lifted. I was free. I was scared, but I was free!
(John 12:35) "Jesus therefore said to them, 'Yet a little while the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, that darkness doesn't overtake you."
Jesus is answering the disciples here in a way that cautions them to walk with Him while he was still on earth. The verse also applies to us, as we are newly walking in the light with Him. He has called to us in our darkness. He has provided the light, the hope, the love, and a clear path to walk on. We are also cautioned to walk with Him, while we have the light, so the darkness from which we just escaped doesn't overtake us again. I know I don't want to be back in the darkness. I didn't like it there!
(John 12:36) "He who walks in the darkness doesn't know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become children of light.' Jesus said these things, and he departed and hid himself from them."
I certainly didn't know where I was going when I was walking in the darkness. That is such a convicting statement to me. I was in the darkness, and completely unaware of where the path was headed.
So now that we're out of the darkness and have the light shining on the truth, let's believe in the light! Lord, I pray to you. Thank You for providing the light when You sent Your Son to walk among us for a time. I believe. We believe in the light, in the Name of Jesus. Now that we believe in the light, we have become children of the light.
Note that Jesus spoke those things, and departed from them. It is with a saddened heart that I acknowledge here that Jesus was separating Himself to a safe place until the time of His betrayal. He tells us to believe in Him, and by doing so, we become partakers in His light. Then He goes through the horrible events leading up to His ultimate sacrifice for all of our sins!
(Ephesians 5:8) "For you were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord. Walk as children of light," It is because we have heard the call, confessed our sins, repented, mended fences with those we've hurt, forgiven those who have wronged us, and believed in Him that we are now out of the darkness. We are encouraged to remember that we are children of the light, and to walk as children of light.
As I reflect on my journey out of the darkness, I am reminded that it was through an intricate and thorough process that I slowly came into the light. Though the process took over two years to "complete," the process now needs to be repeated daily, and even more often if necessary, to remain in the light. I cannot just come into the light, and then return and do the same old things. Those old things are what put me in the darkness in the first place. To go back there, would put me back there - in the darkness; back in the chains, behind bars in my prison, shackled and in bondage to my sin.
Since we were once in the darkness, and now are in the light, we are encouraged to make the choice to walk as children of light. We should acknowledge our wrongs on a daily basis. We should allow the light to shine on our sins. We should choose righteousness, or at least try to be more like the light-giver every day.
Living in the light, just like the darkness, is certainly about the choices we make. We have the choice to give up old bad habits by asking for help. We can choose to consider another personís feelings before saying something mean or ugly. We have the choice to seek God first in everything. The choice to cast down idols through understanding what it is we really worship. The choice to help others out of the darkness, especially by being available to assist those who are walking the same path and struggling in the same way as you. The choice to lovingly shine the light into the lives of those nearest to us mainly through positive edification, and partly through helping them to understand their shortcomings. Please note that there is a fine line between judging someone inappropriately, and helping them to understand where they can improve themselves - a very fine line indeed. It is usually by confessing my own flaws that helps another person to acknowledge their own.
Another of the choices we have at hand when living in the light is that of forgiveness. We have been completely forgiven, so we are free to completely forgive others. As we exercise this new freedom, not only are we freeing ourselves from the burden of holding onto the actions of other people, we are freeing them from our condemnation, or our unfair judgment.
(1 Corinthians 4:5) "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each man will get his praise from God."
As we look upon others with our judgment, we are in danger of being deceived because we don't know the failings of the other person's heart. We are free to understand the important lesson of not passing a harsh opinion on the conduct of any other person, because there are so many elements that make up his character. We can't know anyone well enough to be certain that our judgment is correct. The only one who has this ability is our Creator.
(Psalms 90:8) "You have set our iniquities before you, Our secret sins in the light of your presence." This is yet another confirmation that He knows our inner thoughts, hopes, dreams, desires, lusts, plots, plans and everything else that goes through our mind, whether good or bad. He has everything He needs to be a fair and effective judge. Remember here that we are judged already if we have not accepted Christ's free gift.
(Psalms 112:4) "Light dawns in the darkness for the upright, He is gracious, merciful, and righteous." As we are changed by the presence of the Holy Spirit, alight with His Holiness, we have the presence of hope. It may be a dark time we have to endure for a time, and yet, we are assured that the Light will rise.
I find myself filled with hope as two things now come to mind: First, the pain we experience as a consequence of our sins will pass as the light exposes them for what they are. Second, Christ, the Source of all Light, will return to us to take us to the place He's prepared for us.
In the Light!