“Dirty Dishes, Laundry, and Being a Radical Follower of Jesus”

In the Evangelical world there is a group of young pastors, leaders, and writers who advocate a radical commitment to Jesus, one that challenges the perceived complacency of those who are, as the Bible puts it, “at ease in Zion.” Among these new radicals are David Platt and Francis Chan. Their books rise to the top of the best-seller lists, ensuring that their call to a deeper, more biblical form (in their estimation) of discipleship is widely circulated throughout the slumbering congregations of North America.

And surely this is a good thing. Surely, their challenge is one many churches need. Particularly in the North American church there are greater levels of complacency. Where the cost of following Jesus seems only to amount to spare change, faith and it’s privileges get easily taken for granted.

More importantly, Jesus himself was radical in his call, was he not? Think of it. There are calls for his followers to forsake the most intimate of relationships if they rival allegiance to him. Not only that, his call is fundamentally for us to die to ourselves, to take up our cross each day and walk the rugged, ragged path he trod. This is a call that tells us to expect persecution, suffering, and even death. Put Christ first is the command; all competition must go.

Yet I think there is a difference between Jesus and these young radicals.

Or at least I hope there is.

Let me explain why.

When I’ve listened to speakers like Francis Chan powerfully challenge their audience to more, to greater, to the more radical, I’ve often done so via a podcast or a You Tube video while my hands are soaking in soapy, grimy dishwater. I’m finally getting around to doing dishes that have accumulated over 2 or 3 days. Such podcasts make mundane tasks that much more tolerable.

However, there have been times when I’ve been doing this and found myself questioning my own life and whether or not I am living radically for Jesus. Someone like Chan is speaking about fully giving yourself to Christ, about living as a passionate follower of Jesus and here I am organizing another pile of laundry, wondering how on earth we could get so many clothes so dirty so fast. I experience dissonance. It makes me wonder whether I can be a radical follower of Jesus when the better part of my life consists in an endless succession of household chores.

The truth is life in a family is largely routine. Most days are filled with errands, laundry, making sure your kids are clean, dressed, and fed (though 2 out of 3 sometimes has to do). Most days are not spectacular. Most days end with me feeling drained, with barely enough energy to stay awake through a favourite TV show.

So what to make of what seems like such a disparity?

One of the first things I would say is that we have to be discerning when we interpret what Jesus is saying. For instance, when he tells the rich, young ruler to go and sell all he had and then come follow, Jesus was addressing the man’s heart. He was not saying that anyone who wants to follow him has to sell all they own and give away all the proceeds. Even in the early church, radical generosity was spontaneous and voluntary, not required and regulated.

The question, rather, is whether or not our possessions possess us. Does our stuff, our desire to get it, get in the way of our following Jesus? Are our possessions idols? In fact, it’s perfectly possible for a poor person to treat money as an idol more than a rich person.

The question is always: are we willing to relinquish what gets between us and Jesus? In other words, if the circumstances were such that you had to choose between financial security and Jesus, which would you choose?

The call of the cross is, likewise, about our willingness to follow Jesus even in the face of persecution, of rejection, of suffering, and even death. Unlike Ignatius of Antioch, however, it’s not about relishing the prospect of impending martyrdom but of being so committed to Jesus and having been so radically changed by the power of his resurrection that we willingly and gladly share in the fellowship of his sufferings .

Part of what underlies the motivation of these new radicals is the fact that it’s hard to hear a gospel of grace in a land of plenty. We don’t want what we don’t think we need. Even in some churches what Jesus has done is taken for granted. We underestimate our sinfulness, and our need, therefore, for the mercy and forgiveness of our holy, Creator God. There are times when there needs to be voices crying in the wilderness — including the wilderness of North American Christianity. These young radicals are among these voices.

But when it comes to the (dare I say) average follower of Jesus, being a radical follower has to mean something that applies to life in the ordinary world of day-planners, school plays, and shovelling your driveway out yet again. And I think it does.

You see, simply having Jesus as the centre of your life is radical in this neighbourhood. It’s not about freeing yourself from the mundane in order to do what Jesus really wants you to do. Instead, it’s about living radically right where you are. It’s about learning to see all of life in relation to God so that, as Reformers like Martin Luther insisted, even housework can be done to the glory of God. It’s about seeing the value in the most tedious of activities when they are done with an attitude of sacrificial love. The every day routine to which most of us subscribe is not an escape from the radical call of Jesus; it’s instead a means of entering such a call more humbly, more fully and, yes, even more radically.

Why I Am a Theologically-Conservative, Biblically-Based, Partial-Evolutionist, Intelligent-Designist, Old-Earth Creationist Christian (Or Why I Could Care Less About the Nye-Ham Debate)

Creationism Debate

That blog title might require some unpacking.

Just last week evolutionist Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) and young-earth Creationist Ken Hamm (founder of the Creation Museum and president of Answers in Genesis) engaged in a much-publicized debate. It was broadcast live on the internet. No doubt millions tuned in.

I didn’t.

I did, however, briefly scan a couple of the articles that inevitably followed.

As it happens, both Nye and Hamm remain convinced of their respective positions. And from all reports, it seems likely that the same is true of their respective supporters.

It makes you wonder. Or at least it makes me wonder.

What was the point of all the hoopla exactly? In the first place, neither Nye nor Hamm are scientists; that is, they are not experts in the fields of evolutionary biology. Neither are either of them experts in the field of biblical studies. All things considered, then, I’d much rather tune into a debate that includes folks like William Lane Craig, Alistair McGrath, John Lennox, Hugh Ross, Paul Davies, and others who participate in such conversations with thoughtful nuance and balance.

Of course, at the heart of all debates of this sort is the perennial tension between science and religion. Ever since the days of Galileo, conflict between the church and scientists has been virtually omnipresent in our culture. Most recently, the new atheists have taken the offensive, with the likes of Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris (the four horsemen of the apocalypse, as some have dubbed them) going beyond atheists from previous generations by calling religion not only delusionary but dangerous. Vitriol often replaces even-handed discussion.

One of the persistently frustrating things about these debates is how so often people get quickly labelled. “He’s a creationist.” “So and so believes in evolution.” People on both sides of the debate use these as shorthand, and as a convenient means of dismissing people as easily as their positions. If someone from the atheist camp gets wind that I believe in creation, I then get labelled a “creationist.” The problem with this is obvious. The label itself remains undefined; or, worse, it is pre-defined. What it means is decided in advance of conversation. Even if I believe that God created all the universe, this doesn’t mean I fall into the category of “creationist” as understood by my atheist opponent. My atheist friend might very well think all creationists are young earth creationists and no creationist accepts any aspect of the theory of evolution.

Even more frustrating is the labeling that goes on within the Christian community. There are those who hold to a literal six-day model of creation and there are those who read Genesis 1 more as Hebrew poetry rather than a 21st century scientific text. The more stubborn within these camps will refer to one another with such labels as “fundamentalist” and “liberal.” The whole thing gives me a headache.

I have Christian friends around whom I am careful with respect to bringing up certain topics precisely because I don’t want to be labelled. I’d prefer to enjoy the unity we have on the essentials than get into a heated argument over what might well be—at least within the hierarchy of Christian doctrines—peripheral matters.

Now don’t mistake me. I do think some of this discussion matters. For instance, the basic question as to whether or not one can reasonably believe that there is a Creator responsible for the cosmos is obviously fundamental to Christianity. And the question as to what degree the theory of evolution is as scientifically reliable and demonstrable as the established scientific orthodoxy claims it is also remains a crucial point in contemporary debate.

What I am referring to, rather, are questions like this: must orthodox Christians hold to a literal six-day model of creation? Must Christians reject the theory of evolution wholesale or are certain features of the theory, like modification within species, compatible with the biblical conviction that there is a divine Creator? Ken Hamm, for instance, would likely answer yes to the first question. I would not.

Labels, I realize, are inevitable. We have to identify ourselves somehow; and others will always choose to identify us as they see fit. Perhaps if we didn’t so often use them as conversation stoppers they wouldn’t be so bad. Instead, let’s use them as the start of the discussion. Let’s begin by defining the labels we use, either for ourselves or others. Use them as a means of truly engaging one another. Life—and how we understand its origins scientifically and theologically—is more complicated than any labels we can ever use. The problem is that labels stick. So let’s think twice—and well—before applying them.

Expectations, Faith, and Why Our Experience Of God Isn’t What We’d Like It To Be

Expectations are a part of every relationship whether we are aware of them or not. I heard a story once of a pastor giving some premarital counseling to a couple. And when he asked the husband to be what his expectations were of his fiancé, his list of expectations took his spouse to be by complete surprise. An initially calm session of premarital counseling turned ugly fast. The pastor joked about having to step in between them.

For people of faith, expectations are also a part of a relationship with God. The shape of such expectations can vary with one’s Christian tradition, initial faith experiences, theological perspective, and interpretation of Scripture. Pentecostals have very different expectations of what to experience in their relationship with God than, say, Lutherans. Those in the Pentecostal tradition may very well expect a more emotional experience during worship, whereas Lutherans may not expect to have a deeply powerful emotional experience. Yet, faith, and God, can be very real for them both.

Coming as I do from a Roman Catholic upbringing, converting later to a broadly evangelical, specifically Baptist perspective, my expectations of my experience within my relationship with God probably falls somewhere in between the Pentecostal and Lutheran. My current tradition speaks often of having a “personal relationship with Jesus.” While not necessarily unbiblical, this specific phrase does not appear in Scripture. What this phrase means no doubt varies depending on who you ask. However, before unpacking the meaning of this phrase it already gives an impression as to what one can expect. Language creates expectations.

To say that I have a “personal relationship with Jesus” suggests, rightly or wrongly, therefore, a relationship of intimacy, a connection that is closer rather than distant, immediate rather than abstract, one that includes rather than excludes my emotions. In other words, it is analogous to having an intimate connection with another human being. Put another way, it’s like saying that I have a very conversational relationship with Jesus. People sometimes say, “The Lord said to me this morning . . .” Critics may say that this makes Jesus out to be far too “buddy-buddy.”

I say all of this because whatever our expectations are in our relationship with God, sometimes our experience of this relationship changes. The passage of time, changing circumstances, and other factors can affect how I perceive my relationship with God. Whereas once I had, say, an immediate connection that “felt” close and personal, now God seems more distant. And the significance of this, at least for the purposes of this reflection, is the fact that unless I am aware of the factors that impact my experience I can potentially draw the wrong conclusion from my experience.

In other words, I may conclude that I don’t feel as close to God in the present time because something is wrong with my relationship. As they say, “If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved?” Something is amiss, therefore, in my heart. In evangelical terms, the usual means of diagnosing this issue is to say that my sin—especially unconfessed sin—is creating a barrier between myself and God. If you no longer feel close to God, it means you’ve done something wrong. “You’re living outside of God’s will,” some will say. “You gotta get right with Jesus,” others will advise. Hearing such admonitions, we can be left feeling guilty and anxious.

Let me say that this might actually be true. There are times when we wander, when we stray, when our wrongdoing and hard-heartedness keeps us from fellowship with God. Sin erects a wall, separating us from our heavenly Father. But if we are followers of Jesus, we won’t necessarily need others to make us feel guilty. The Spirit of God will already be at work in our conscience. It will be a sense of contrition, Lord willing, that draws us back to Jesus.

At its worst, though, believers in this situation will end up trying to avoid anything that might result in a deeper sense of conviction. They might avoid church. They will neglect prayer. Their Bibles will gather dust. Like Adam and Eve, they will do their best to hide from the presence of God, from anything that reminds them of both their sin and of God’s will for their lives. Evangelicals typically call this backsliding.

However, believers who experience a distance from God, but for reasons other than unconfessed sin, are not trying to avoid God. Instead, they may feel as though God is the one creating the distance. They want to pray, but the words do not come as easily as they once did. Rather than a dialogue, it feels more like a monologue. As hard as they may knock on heaven’s door, so to speak, no answer seems forthcoming. No one comes to the door, much less opens it. This change of experience runs against the grain of our expectations of God and how he relates to us.

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Or so James 4:8 tells us. And I do believe this is true. In fact, I believe it is true even if it is not true in our experience. In other words, even if we draw near to God to spend time in prayer and we have not, in our estimation, felt his presence or experienced a special assurance, he is still there, present, real, loving, and faithful.

This is why the difference between faith and feelings is so important. If I make my faith in God, my relationship with him, dependent on the feelings I expect to experience in relation to him, then I will often be disappointed. I will likely end up in a state of unbelief, because our feelings are so come and go. Faith is the assurance of things not seen, and maybe, we can add, of things not felt. Feelings can follow faith, but not always. And any faith that follows feelings risks being as ephemeral as our changing moods.

At a deeper level, there are times when our experience of our relationship with God shifts or changes because God is up to something, pushing and pulling us toward a greater maturity, of trusting in him and his word. In my experience, this sort of shift can be difficult to assess precisely because of our expectations.

Speaking more personally, over the last few years things have changed for me spiritually. I am still in the midst of this. I know that life circumstances have made drawing nearer to God a greater challenge – in terms of both the time and energy I generally have to spend on prayer and reading Scripture.

In addition, I find that it is hard to focus long when I pray. I can’t remember the last time I felt moved or touched during congregational worship. Even my experience of preaching has changed over the last while. Whether in my preparation or my delivery, preaching is not what it once was. If someone were to ask me to express it more clearly, I am not even sure I could. At least not in 20 words or less.

As a pastor I have experienced what I call “the professionalization of my faith.” Being in a vocation that includes activities that would be a part of my life even if I were not a pastor, activities that pertain to the practice of faith, has meant that over time my “personal relationship with God” has been swallowed by responsibilities of pastoring. In other words, being a pastor has made it harder to be a Christian.

For some of you my saying this might sound alarming or disquieting. People usually expect pastors to be pillars of faith, men and women who are examples of Christians who have an especially close relationship with God—otherwise, where would all those sermons, Bible studies, and pastoral insights and counsel come from? If we can’t trust that our pastors are in this position, who can we trust?

To such a concern, I can only say that I am, after all, human. And, yes, that means I am a sinful human being. But it also means that I am subject to the same weaknesses and limitations that any other person of faith may have. And as it happens, I am experiencing these weaknesses and limitations in a more pronounced fashion these days. I can also say that this is about my experience, not that of other pastors. While others sharing my vocation may also share my struggles, I do not mean for anyone to generalize from my personal experiences.

What about being a pastor has made this more difficult (or even more likely)? Hard to say, exactly, but I can give examples. For instance, since I spend a lot of time in Scripture during the week preparing for sermons, I have found it hard to read the Bible without seeing potential sermon outlines or ideas. Because of this I have found that I am less motivated to read the Bible. I have found it more difficult to hear what the text might be saying to me.

Though this is a good example of what I mean when I talk about the “professionalization of my faith,” I feel that it’s much deeper. It’s as though having to be in the role of pastor, which has often meant, for better or worse, setting aside my own spiritual needs, also means having to stifle aspects of myself and my own faith journey for the sake of those around me. Partly because of my own personality, I made a conscious choice to maintain a degree of professional distance from the people in my church. I did this to some extent out of fear, fear that if they knew the real me they would never want me as their pastor. On one level, there is a wisdom in this; on another, it was a mistake.

Add to this several years of ministry that have seemed less than fruitful, and no wonder my own relationship with God has taken a beating. What I mean is that—and I know that this is wrong, by the way—I have allowed myself to think at times that God values me (or not) depending on how I perform as a pastor. Like I said, I know that this is unbiblical theology. Still, knowing something is wrong doesn’t mean you won’t feel it is true. And this, by the way, adds to the difficulty. There is often a dissonance, a lack of continuity, between what I am going through internally and what I know to be true in Scripture and what I try and portray in public. There have been days when I was screaming on the inside and smiling on the outside.

So what do I expect of and from God in all of this? Or in my experience of God? Part of me wants to say, “I don’t know.” That’s probably accurate enough. Like a Hebrew wandering in the Sinai wilderness or like a lump of clay on the Potter’s wheel, what I hope and pray for is that God in his sovereign purpose will make clear sooner than later what he is up to in all of this. Either that, or that he will bring me out of this into something fresh and new, a wide-open space, a place where he makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.

Making Every Effort When There’s Nothing You Can Do: More Thoughts on Spiritual Formation

The process of Christ being formed in us, the process of maturation every believer is called to undergo, is called spiritual formation. In other words, the process of transformation, of growing in Christ, is the work of the Holy Spirit. Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord told his people, “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live” (Ezekiel 37:14). And God fulfilled this promise in the upper room at Pentecost (Acts 2:1—4). And while there is an indicative sense in which this is true, that the believer lives by the power of the indwelling Spirit, such truth can also be expressed as an exhortation. As Paul says, “Live by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). What this exhortation tells us is that there are two related aspects of the work of the Spirit in the process of spiritual transformation. On the one hand, we cannot grow as followers of Jesus without the power of the Spirit; on the other hand, we are also called to cooperate with the work of the Spirit in our lives in order to see transformation take place.

For something to happen, there needs to be power; for someone to be formed into the image of Jesus, they need “the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:13). In fact, in the New Testament there are several instances where the words “power” and “Spirit” are used interchangeably or in conjunction with one another. The point is simply that the person of the Spirit is the one who enables a follower of Jesus to grow as a follower of Jesus. Peter points us to this reality when he says, “His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Everything needed. Commenting on these words from 2 Peter, author Mark Buchanan, in his book Hidden in Plain Sight, writes: “Everything you need for life and godliness you have already. In full. You actually don’t need any more. Not one thing—not a cotter pin or flat washer, not a doohickey or a thingamajig; nothing’s been withheld. Everything required for zoë—abundant and flourishing life—and eusebeia—a deep and real commitment to what matters most—is intact.”

During his final hours with his disciples, Jesus used more organic imagery to say essentially the same thing: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Particularly if we conceive the fruit Jesus mentions as the fruit of the Spirit, Jesus puts a more relational spin on the same idea, but the point is the very similar. To become more like Jesus, we need to be in relationship with Jesus. The power of that relationship is the Spirit. Apart from me you can do nothing. Our nothing is more than sufficiently met by Jesus’ everything.

Despite this, our role in spiritual transformation is not passive. Even Jesus says, “Abide in me,” which, if it means remaining in intimate communion with him, is hardly an effortless endeavour. Like any other relationship, ours with Jesus requires nurture, cultivation, support, and, yes, even effort. Speaking of effort, therefore, in the same passage where Peter speaks of God as giving us “everything needed” for becoming mature in Christ, he then goes to tell his readers to “make every effort” (2 Peter 1:5—8). The effort he encourages his brothers and sisters to expend is effort in adding to their faith a number of virtues that are quite similar to Paul’s list of spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22—23).

So clearly, there is a biblical expectation that those seeking to become mature in Jesus will, to paraphrase the subtitle of Barton’s book, Sacred Rhythms, “arrange their lives for spiritual transformation.” And this biblical expectation is not low, either; Peter does say, “Make every effort.” God calls believers to do everything they can do to become more like Jesus. The Christian life is active and intentional. Just as God does not force his saving love upon anyone, neither does he force our progress towards spiritual maturity. He has his role, we have ours. When we “make every effort,” we are, in effect, living by the Spirit.

It is interesting to reflect on the process of spiritual formation in the context of some of our more prominent, i.e., newsworthy, political stories. For instance, the unfolding train wreck that is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford throws into sharp relief the importance of considering character (especially but not exclusively in political, public life). The dissonance of a leader behaving in the way that Ford has yet who also insists on the quality of his leadership—itself debated by many—serves as a reminder that what we do and who we are intimately related. It’s in this respect we see a connection between the fruit and gifts of the Spirit. In a word, character counts; and character is a crucial aspect of having Christ being formed in us.

Biblically, Christian character takes shape through specific virtues. Paul provides a list of virtues he calls spiritual fruit. Found in Galatians 5:22—23, they are as follows: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Peter does something similar with his list in 2 Peter 1:5—8: “You must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.” These lists of virtues give shape to the kind of people we are called to be as followers of Christ.

Together the fruit of the Spirit give us a picture of the character of Jesus. And so for a believer to grow the fruit in his or her life is, de facto, to grow in Christlikeness, to become more like Jesus. But the obvious problem is that we cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit, as one author says, “through sheer willpower and personal discipline.” Therefore, we have a quandary. We are told by Scripture to “make every effort” to do something we cannot do by our own efforts. Apart from me you can do nothing. Apart from abiding in Jesus, attempts to be like Jesus will prove useless.

Our own inability to produce spiritual fruit is itself our starting point and the key to understanding the kind of effort we are called to exert in the process of having Christ formed in us. Thinking we can do it, that we can accomplish our own spiritual transformation, guarantees either frustration over failure or pride in our good works. In other words, the first step in making every effort toward maturity in Jesus is realizing our own utter helplessness in his presence, a helplessness defined by our limitations and our sinfulness. We must make every effort to understand what it is we cannot do.

The link between our own powerlessness and God’s infinite capacity to transform us according to the imago Dei is the person of the Spirit. “Indispensable to the life of virtue,” Buchanan says, “is the presence of the Spirit. If the Spirit does not stir, fill, and direct both our life of faith and our quest for virtue, all our virtues will grow stunted and bitter, like fruit from hardscrabble ground. Such virtue is usually no more than a repertoire of self-serving gestures.” Beginning the journey toward spiritual formation means acknowledging before God that we stand in complete need of his aid, that nothing we are called to be is something we can accomplish. Practicing spiritual disciplines means placing ourselves in the position where God is free to be about his work of forming us after the image of Jesus.

If, for example, someone struggles with impatience as I do, becoming more patient is not going to happen through my own attempts to act more patiently in relation to those around me. But placing myself more thoroughly at God’s disposal can indirectly produce the quality of patience in my life. “When we come to terms with the inability to change ourselves,” Buchanan reminds us, “then we allow the Lord to be our source.” Apart from me you can do nothing. Think of the prophet’s words: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6). Such words lie at the heart of spiritual formation.

More Light

Until I locked the door of our van with the keys in the ignition and the engine running I had been feeling quite serene. But my serenity dissipated in those milliseconds between my shutting the driver’s side door and my hearing that tell-tale click of the automatic lock.

Sometimes it only takes seconds to go from feeling like things are alright (if not perfect!) with the world to feeling like a complete idiot. So there I was standing beside my locked and running car, snow falling in thick flurries, feeling like an idiot.

To back up, locking the keys in a running vehicle was not my first mistake of the evening. Already I had left on a light in the van by mistake, draining the battery, and forcing me to call someone to come and give me a boost. We had just gotten the van running when I experienced those fateful aforementioned milliseconds.

After nearly an hour of trying with a coat-hanger to open the car-door, we agreed it wasn’t working. And even though I had parked on the street outside our house, I couldn’t go inside for any reason. All of my keys were together, hanging from my van’s ignition.

This particular adventure took place a couple of days after Christmas, during the aftermath of a snowstorm and an ice-storm. As it happens, while leaving my running vehicle to wait for help elsewhere, the neighbourhood lights came to life, illuminating what had seemed like an impenetrable darkness. At least for us, the power was back on. Lights in my house shone once again.

Made me think. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

What does that have to do with feeling like an idiot because I locked my keys in a running vehicle? Not much, I suppose. I just thought it was a funny story.

Anyway. This Messianic prophecy from Isaiah 9 has given my family the opening words to our Advent devotions for years. It’s sort of a variation of that cliché proverb, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” Perhaps a more substantive version of it, one grounded in history, in the centuries-old expectations of a people who had known more than their fair share of darkness. In any event, the “dawn” in this case is the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, the one who calls himself, “the light of the world.”

The thing about darkness is that your eyes can adjust. When I put my four year old sons to bed, the room seems completely dark. After a while, though, you can discern shapes. When I was standing outside waiting for help on that snowy night, the power out on my street, all was quiet and black. The absence of light becomes an afterthought. Despite being unable to see properly through the thickness of shadow, we come to prefer darkness. What we’ve never seen, we can’t see our need to see.  

Christian apologist and literary critic C.S. Lewis once said that “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen — not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Without light, we don’t see what we’re missing. Beyond affirming that Jesus is the truth of all reality, the epistemological center of the universe, it is in knowing him that we also begin to understand everything else. Put another way, the reality of who Jesus is illuminates the rest of the world, all of creation, and all of our experiences.

That Jesus is the truth, and that, as Scripture says in Colossians 1:16, “All things have been created through him and for him,” is the anchoring reality for my entire life. Particularly when I was younger, in high school then early university, knowing what true was most important. Truth became my light; Jesus became my truth, the way and the truth and the life. 

This Christmas was one of the strangest in recent memory. Freezing rain. Snowstorms. Two weeks of church cancelled. No Christmas Eve service. No phone service. And of course no power. Which meant no light. Darkness everywhere. Except we lit candles, reminding us that even in the deepest darkness there is still the light that shines in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome. Over this holiday season, the one constant is that Jesus was the light, is the light.