I was in the midst of a fit of enraged blasphemy when I had my first real encounter with God. And do you know what happened? Well, I wasn’t rebuked. I wasn’t chastised or condemned. I wasn’t told to get my act together and fly right. All that happened was that God made his love known. Right there in the middle of my hateful ranting. The Light shone into the darkness and the darkness was overcome. I’ve been following God where ever he wanted to lead me ever since.*
My dark side didn’t go away after that encounter. Far from it. As I told a friend recently, I think I’ve been angry with God nearly every day that I’ve walked with him. I have been known to complain almost as frequently and melodramatically as the psalmists and prophets. My first step in forgiving is usually asking God to help me to even want to begin to want to forgive. For many years, I was a proficient liar. I have asked God to do unholy, destructive things to people for my benefit.
And that’s just the heavily edited list of the things I do and think from my dark side. There’s a whole other realm of things which I know I am capable of which I have chosen not to do. I know for a fact that I have it in me to kill a person. And not feel bad about it. I don’t doubt that I could become a sexual deviant and engage in all sorts of scandalous activities with all sorts of people. I don’t think I have it in me to be a criminal for financial gain. But that’s mostly because I’m kind of lazy and it’s too much work. But I do have it in me to be a horrendous mother who lashes out at her kids physically and emotionally – when not ignoring them – and tells them it’s all their own fault.
Are you scandalized? You shouldn’t be. I’m quite certain you have it in you to do some pretty awful things as well. We all do.
The way I see it, there are three basic options for dealing with our dark side. You can deny, suppress and ignore it. Which as we’ve been talking about the last few days, is what Jesus criticized the religious leaders of his day for doing – play acting at being good when really they were white-washed tombs with all that dark stuff rotting away inside.
Or you can justify the dark side that shows through. Pretend it’s not really the dark. You can explain how greed is good, your white hot temper is justified by the stupidity around you, your inflexibility is just standing up for what you believe in, everyone does it. But then you’re just an asshole.
Or you can own it and bring your dark side into the light. Which would be the path Jesus recommends.
Many people are afraid to bring their dark side to God because they are sure they will be condemned for it. They are afraid that they will be expected to fix it or get rid of it. Which just sets us up for failure and more condemnation. And, secretly we’re kind of attached to it. We’re not so sure we want God removing this part of ourselves. As anyone who has watched Star Wars knows, there’s power in the dark side.
But bringing your dark side into the light isn’t about condemnation or striving to be good or giving up part of yourself. It’s about becoming who God created you to be. Which is another way of saying redemption. God doesn’t want to get rid of your dark side. He wants to redeem it. Transform it from something dark and scary into something powerful and life-giving. Imagine that.
Consider what light does – it illuminates what it shines on. So it allows us to see things clearly. When Jesus talks about what is done in the dark being brought into the light, it is usually in the context of judgement. We often think of judgment as a frightful thing we dread as much as we dread our dark side. But judgment is simply revealing the truth of what is being judged.
In other words, it is what happens when we can see things clearly. It’s more like putting in a light bulb and discovering that there are cobwebs all around the ceiling you hadn’t seen before than being sentenced for a crime. Judgment is for illumination, not condemnation.
So, we bring our dark side into the light and it gets illuminated. We can see what we’re looking at more clearly. And we’ll see it in the light of Love. Things look very different in the light of love than in the darkness of condemnation.
For example, in the darkness of condemnation, we look at our raging anger and see failure, a lack of self-control, patience and kindness. Bad, bad and more bad. In the light of love we look at anger and see fear which God wants to free us from, hurt which God wants to heal us of and fierceness which God has equipped us with.
In fact, pretty well every time you bring our dark side into God’s holy light, you will discover those three things at work: fear to be freed from, hurt to be healed of and power God has given you to live from. Which is why the enemy has worked so hard to keep us convinced that we must hide our darkness. It’s where our power hides. If we start working out of that power instead of out of our fear and hurt, all heaven might break loose.
Next, we’ll look at our role as light in the world. . . .stay tuned!
*I tell the full story of how I met God while engaged in an enraged fit of blasphemy in my first book The Upside Down World ~ A Book of Wisdom in Progress. Which you should go buy. Right now. Please and thank you. 🙂