It’s easy to get depressed these days. Between meanspirited win/lose politics, the dismissal of fact-based debate, public shootings, brutal treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, extreme weather events, and destabilized foreign relations, the darkness around us seems to be deepening. Fear is its constant companion. What’s a person of hope and integrity to do?
The darker things get, the more afraid you may become to speak out, to venture truth, to stand for justice or mercy. Yet it is exactly at this time that your light matters the most.
But how do you shine when all the evidence around you says to give up or to dim your flame? Or worse, when the evidence seems to be that your light makes no difference?
I want to share with you three ways to be light in the darkness. To increase the brightness in a time of widespread doom and gloom, without also increasing the darkness.
Consider the nature of light. Jesus and other wisdom teachers tell us that light is the manifestation of love, wisdom, and truth. The sciences tell us that light waves carry information, thus intelligence. Both Biblical authors and modern-day ecologists tell us that light is the basis of all life.
Given, then, that you are stewards of this love, wisdom and truth; this information and intelligence; this life-giving energy, what kind of action can you take to increase the light and diminish the darkness?
First, befriend the love that resides deep in your soul. You know who you are. You know what you believe in, what you stand for. Take comfort in this inner knowing. Visit this place within often so that you do not lose your way in larger spheres of chaos. As you become a frequent visitor to inner vaults of peace and wisdom, you will radiate soul-energy into the world. As you shine this light into the world, you replenish the world’s depleted storehouses.
My dad is able to buoy the spirits of my mom, who lives with the debilitating disease of ALS, because he taps deeply into this reservoir, and shares it freely with her. She does likewise. Even though she cannot speak or move, their home is a place of surprising joy.
Second, speak truth and wisdom out loud. Let it pierce the deceit and vagueness within which evil thrives. Truth is a brightly glowing torch. It carries a very high spiritual vibration. When you speak, your words reverberate far beyond your knowing, offering hope, instilling strength. Take care, though, that you do not also increase the darkness by coupling your words with blame, judgement, or contempt.
Jesus reminds us to judge not lest we ourselves be judged. What does he mean? The simple meaning is that others may counter your truth and your judgment with their own. At a more subtle level, the energies your speech carry not only penetrate those around you, but they ripple back into your own life. Take care the energies with which you speak.
Third, lift up the values and ethics over politics. Political expediency is about getting and maintaining power over others at all costs. It’s about winners and losers. In the game of politics, the ends justify the means. Not so with ethics. Here the means matter greatly for it is in the wise use of power that social capital is accrued. How people are treated, how the earth is stewarded, how the vulnerable are shielded from harm matters every bit as much as any final result.
One pastor friend lamented the win/lose nature of the impeachment proceedings, and the hard divides it reveals. “It’s the same in our churches when it comes to human sexuality. We are saying the same thing as the Senate and the Congress. ‘If your facts and perspective don’t agree with mine, then I can simply dismiss you.’ How can we ever be united like this? Who is going to lead us?”
You will. Not by focusing on politics, but by shifting the conversation to ethics. Ethics, grounded in the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, do not take up residence in any political party. Instead, they are anchored in the life of the Spirit. They are the unmistakable good that the heart knows, and the Gospel bears witness to.
Several months ago, I attended a retreat hosted by the HeartMath Institute. This scientific research organization studies the connection between the emotional and physical properties of the heart. They found that radiating emotions like compassion, care, forgiveness and gratitude have a positive impact on surrounding people. Beyond that, these particular emotions raise the electromagnetic vibration of the planet as a whole. This higher vibration, in turn, creates a growing reservoir of well-being which positively impacts the entire creation. The higher the vibration, the more the light it radiates.
As you prepare to lead your congregations and chart paths for the future, be good stewards of the light you bear. Abide in the deep love, wisdom and truth of your soul. Communicate information and intelligence. Intentionally lift up ethical values that increase light and life. Do not give in to fear.