I recently attended a one-day Clergy Session which featured author Robert Benson leading from his new book, Punching Holes in the Dark, Living in the Light of the World. I have heard Robert teach before, and I like his unique blend of poetry, prophecy and preaching. I have already spoken about some of what I learned that day in the LightHouse Service and in my Wednesday Morning Women’s Study. But because I believe this book touches on a challenge that I and many who talk with me face today, I want to share with a larger audience.
In Punching Holes in the Dark, Robert names feelings that many of us experience regularly...the feeling that there is so much in the world today that contributes to darkness and the subsequent feeling of hopelessness that begins to creep in as a result. He writes,"I read the reports of wars both great and small. I read where again today there were bombings of the fathers and mothers and sons and daughters of someone somewhere, and I long for peace. I would settle for truce most days, or even an informal cessation of hostilities...I read the stories of random and not-so- random violence and am stunned by what we are capable of doing to each other, what we do to each other in the name of everything from greed to God...I listen to the world around me each day. I listen as the general tone of discourse about anything of value and anyone who matters – and who is different and therefore does not matter – grows less and less civil, less and less reasonable, less and less hopeful...I have come now to carry a kind of darkness around with me everywhere, within me and without me."
As Christians, we want to keep hope alive, but fear and anxiety are doing a number on us. As Benson continues to wrestle with his state of mind, he does two things that give him the ability to begin to see differently. First of all, he goes to a meeting of his Covenant Group and speaks his truth. He wants to speak in ways that he thinks the other men in his group would expect him to speak... especially since he is supposed to be a voice representing the Christian community...but instead he pours out his heart to his soul friends. After doing so, he writes, “My friends simply listened to me. Bless them, they are better men than me. One of them was wise, one of them was gentle, one of them opened a window for me that will change the way I see the world for the rest of my life. I went into our time together an angry, disappointed, discouraged man, I came out very different.” (Yes, this is my way of inviting you to sign up for a Covenant Group.)
The second thing that Benson did was turn back to scripture. Through the voices of his friends and the nudging of the Holy Spirit, he recognized that he will not notice the Light that is already here if
he spends all of his time looking at the dark. He remembered his father, among other things a Nazarene minister, encouraging him to memorize the prologue to the Gospel of John when he was a teenager. Robert thought his dad was old-fashioned, but in order to please him, he committed John 1:1-18 to memory. Reaching into the recesses of his mind, he brought this forward,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Just like Benson, we have a choice to make. We can focus on the darkness around us, or we can renew our minds with the truth that nothing will ever overcome the Light of the World. When we decide to focus on the Light, it is amazing how much Light we will catch sight of in the middle of all that is dim. It is also miraculous how often we can be used to speak Light into that which is not of God when we are well connected to the One Who Will Not Be Overcome. I could write about this for days, but I’ve got to run. I’m going to begin memorizing the first 18 verses of John. I know it will come in handy in the days to come!