Out of the Darkness

08/21/2009

For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord.
So live as people of light! Ephesians 5:8 (NLT)

It was a day to be celebrated, a day in court…gone right! I watched as my friend walked forward when her name was read out. I watched as she pushed open the swinging half-door and stood before the judge, papers in her hand. Was she nervous? Of course! All eyes were on her, all ears turned to hear…had she made it? Had she arrived at the place where the Judge could pronounce, “Case Dismissed”? Yes, she had. It was a good day for my friend, a day of being set free from what had held her captive for so many years. Her’s was a day to be celebrated, 17 months of clean living was paying off after a lifetime of destructive choices. Her journey out of the darkness and into the light was being noticed, recorded, and rewarded.

Some in the courtroom on that day were still full of darkness. They appeared before the judge with their head hung low, their shoulders rounded, and defeat clearly evident to all except maybe them. While walking in that darkness we might think no one can see it, but it’s there, appearing dull, lifeless and downtrodden.

One man was brought in from the jail, he stood behind the glassed wall, defiant, and angry…he was returned to the jail, not yet ready to be set free. Others walked in free, but were taken into custody right there and then, leaving the family member they had come with sitting alone, upset, and probably scared for what would happen next. One man sat alone, and when called forward was told he could go but must return on another day and face what awaited him—he seemed trapped in his own personal darkness—free to walk away but held captive to what was going on on the inside.

Perhaps Paul expressed it best when he wrote: “But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 7:23-24 (NLT)

As many men and women appeared before the judge on that day, all were different, each was an individual life that had taken a turn into darkness. Three that we know of—my friend included—left cleared and dismissed of all charges, ready to begin again. These three were truly miracles of God, having walked one step at a time out of that darkness, turning their back on what harms into what heals—they seemed a mixture of the past and the future, of the old ways and the new. They knew the ways of the court, and they were learning the ways of the free.

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…”
Joshua 24:15 (NIV)

As my friend presented her papers to the judge validating her new life, they showed that she had attended all her meetings, passed all her tests, and completed all that was required. I noticed that she knew what to do in ways I would not have. She knew where to go, where to stand, when to speak to the judge. She represented herself on this day, not needing a lawyer to defend herself, she had no defense to make, simply a clean record to proclaim. Once dismissed by the judge, she asked again if there was anything else that needed to be done, the judge once again said, “Case Dismissed,” with a smile on his face. He asked if she’d like the minutes from the court reporter. My friend said she would, and she took a seat to wait. I would not have known to do that, or where to sit, but she had been there before, she had seen it done… When she was handed the minutes, the prosecuting attorney also smiled and commented, “We can all sign it if you’d like!” She was happy for my friend. It was time to go, time to walk out of a proceeding that had been too commonplace for the last twenty years. As my friend put it, she was “retiring” from this courtroom. Yes, it was a good day!

Will every day be a good day from now on? Of course not! Will there be temptations, struggles, frustrations, fear and trembling to come? Absolutely! We do not escape these things in life. I read just the other day, “If you are moving forward toward your vision, the fear will never go away.” This seems so true, and it’s probably the reason why we would too often choose to just stay in one place, to not change, to not grow, to not make progress…because fear grips us and we freeze, and we’d rather turn around and do what’s familiar rather than move forward and do what’s best…what God is calling us to. The Israelites just wanted to go back to Egypt, back to slavery and to do what was familiar. How sad to choose the darkness of the past over the light of the future.

Soon they were all saying it to one another:
"Let's pick a new leader; let's head back to Egypt."
Numbers 14:4 (The Message Bible)

Having just graduated from Beauty School, I’m in a new forward movement in life. I have finished the classroom learning, passed the State Board Exam for my license, and now it’s time to get a job. I’ve pretty much been a stay-at-home mom my whole life, so this is new for me. The few jobs I have had were usually through family or friends, I was known before I got there so the application process was pretty minimal. This time, it’s different, and it’s a bit scary. I thought school was a bit scary at first, and it was, but in no time I was loving it. I thought the State Board Exam was very scary, and it was, but in no time it was over and I had my license. The easy thing now would be to say, “Well, that’s done, and it was fun but maybe it would be less challenging, less intimidating to just go back to ‘Egypt’ now and not do anything with this new training I’ve received.” But that would be ignoring a dream I’ve had practically my whole life. I’d be taking the safe and easy route back to where I was, letting fear rule instead of God rule. I’d miss out on the “Promised Land” God has waiting, and I’d probably miss out on doing what I thoroughly enjoy and perhaps a ministry God has planned for me that I can’t even yet fully imagine.

“Every change is an opportunity in disguise. Since you can’t stop change, you must learn to take advantage of it….Jesus once said, ‘You can’t put new wine in old wineskins’ (Luke 5:37–39). Here was his point: When faced with change, we must adjust or we’ll explode!”—Rick Warren

“His (Jesus) highest gift ultimately led him from the safety of a carpenter’s workbench into the desert wilderness, where he had to confront his greatest fears and move on…The essential thing is to realize what your strengths are and then refine them…Jesus teaches about finding our highest callings and strengths, and going after them with all our hearts.”
Laurie Beth Jones, “Jesus Life Coach”

If in moving forward the “fear will never go away,” then it will always seem safer to stay the same or even retreat, but that is not what God has called us to. God has called us Homeward, and to serve Him as we travel there. He has called us to be His, to be free, to love the life He’s given us, and to bring Him all the glory we can in this life. Only Satan wants us bound up in the fear that will squelch the plans God has for us, plans made before we were ever born.

It’s not easy to keep moving forward into the unknown! It’s not easy for my friend to get off a path that has been deeply carved in her life, to choose a new way of being and begin again after almost 50 years of darkness and pain. It’s not easy for me to walk into a place of business and ask for a job after 50 years of another way of living. It’s not easy for those coming out of a divorce to find a new life, or for those who have a disease or an accident that takes away the life they once knew. It’s not easy for a new mom and dad, adjusting to raising their first child, or for a mom and dad to send their child off to college or to another country for a job…life changes all along the way, and fear wants to grip us and stop us from moving forward and live fully in all the changes that come. None of it’s easy, but to go back to “Egypt” would be heading in the wrong direction. We don’t want to miss what God has promised us, we need to keep moving forward and following on the path that holds all the best He has for us!

Sara Groves says it well in her song, “Pictures of Egypt.”

I don’t want to leave here…I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me either way
And the places I long for the most are the places where I’ve been
They are calling out to me like a long lost friend

It’s not about losing faith…it’s not about trust
It’s all about comfortable, when you move so much
And the place I was wasn’t perfect, but I had found a way to live
And it wasn’t milk or honey but then neither is this

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt, leaving out what it lacks
‘Cuz the future feels so hard and I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned
And those roads were closed off to me while my back was turned

The past is so tangible, I know it by heart
A million things are never easy to discard
And I was dying for some freedom, but now I hesitate to go
I am caught between the promise and the things I know

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt, leaving out what it lacks
Cuz the future feels so hard and I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned
And those roads were closed off to me while my back was turned

If it comes too quick, I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand
If it comes too quick, I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand

From her CD, “Conversations”

“Egypt” wasn’t all we thought it was, so if we’re looking for the good old days, let’s look at today! “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 NIV) Each day is a new day, a day to begin again!

I have applied for a job, and I have interviewed three times for it. The process has surely had elements of fear and nervousness. The waiting hasn’t been easy—it seems God’s timing is always a bit slower than what we’d choose—but eventually His answer comes. This time His answer for me is, “Yes,” and I now wait for the call to begin work. Soon I will start using my new training, and I will face new fears and challenges as I continue to move forward into yet unknown places in life. My friend is moving forward too, moving passed her last court appearance into a new life that will be exciting but will hold new challenges. That’s as it should be because going back or getting stuck is not in our best interest, God doesn’t want us going around the same mountain again and again.

The waiting in life is HARD, the changing is hard, the unknown is hard…it can be nerve-wracking. The journey through life can be difficult and frustrating at times, but God knows it is! That’s why He talks about it in His Word, always encouraging us through it! He doesn’t want us to ever miss out on what He has waiting for us even if His plans for us mean going Home to Heaven because that’s the part of the journey we’re on…that truly is the Promised Land, and when we get there they’ll be no thought of going back to “Egypt” ever again.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

God understands our trials, our doubts, and our fears. He is with us through it all. We need to pray our way through whatever it is, and have others pray for us too. We need to keep praying even when we come out on the other side, and always remember to give thanks for all that God has done. Prayer doesn’t make it all easy, but it helps to keep us moving forward, knowing we’re not alone. It doesn’t take all the fear out of the equation; it just makes it so the strength of God outweighs the fear that would stop us in the process. Prayer helps us to focus and allows us to see God’s hand on what we’re going through, to see His miracles unfold, and to know that with Heavenly help all things are possible here on Earth.

“Affirming the truth of Christ’s victory and Satan’s defeat is the primary step to successfully stand against the enemy’s attempts to intimidate you.”
Neil T. Anderson, “The Bondage Breaker”

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who
believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 12:46 (NIV)

Let’s live “as people of the light.” Let’s not get stuck where we are because it’s what we know and it’s comfortable, or choose to return to “Egypt” because we are afraid to move forward into the “Promised Land.” Our Judge, our Father God, has set us free. He has declared through His Son, Jesus Christ, “Case Dismissed!” When we truly believe that, we can begin to live in all Jesus died to give us. We have been given our walking papers; it’s time to live the full and satisfying life that’s available to all who will believe.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
John 8:12 (NIV)

Until we meet again,
Diane