The Light that Shines In the Darkness

Everyone has a path they must walk upon to become who they are.

Every path has light and darkness. When we see the light in our life, we feel hope, inspiration, love, acceptance, growth, and belonging. The darkness creeps in and tries to steal everything that is good, because that’s what darkness does. But our darkness can only evade the parts of us that we let it take over. How powerful do you think your darkness is?

Everyone’s opinion of their own darkness is usually that theirs is the worst kind anyone could imagine. More intolerable, more threatening, and more unforgivable than anyone else’s. Sometimes, people view their darkness as disgusting, embarrassing, and a reason to consider themselves worthless. For some people, their darkness defines them. For others, the dark part of the path is just a tool for the bigger picture of their lives; its only purpose is to guide them to the light in themselves—meaning, the truest version of themselves.

Which of these is your view of your darkness? Does your darkness define you, or simply point to the part of you that you’re most proud of?

How important is your darkness to you? Do you cling to it like oxygen, or do you only reflect on it during introspective moments, using it as a reference point? When a person’s darkness consumes them, it becomes their identity: There is no “them” without their darkness. They are permanently what their traumas have them made to be, and without it, they would be weak, shallow, and fallible. In that type of mind, darkness equals danger, and gives that person a sense of power or entitlement, believing their darkness is something like that of a superpower. But even that perspective (let alone the feeling) is a defense mechanism, and it only works on the outside. Inside, feelings get bottled up– rather than being expressed in healthy ways. Darkness, when caged, eventually erupts like a volcano. A person may claim they are more “powerful” because of their darkness, when in fact they are falling into isolation more than ever before, shutting down their vulnerability and closing the door to trusting others with their openness. They tend to think that obscuring who they really are makes them stronger, but what is actually happening is they are tearing themselves down.

After living in darkness for so long, a person may either tire of that mentality, or they may become so convinced that their darkness makes them impenetrable that they turn bitter. The ones who tire, a lot like me, need someone who knows what life looks like away from the ropes of darkness—away the threat, the destruction, the lies. A person who jumps into the deep end of darkness may need their own personal version of an eye-opener. They need to see how much worse it gets, and they must see how good their life is, with everything considered.

I can tell you right now that at the end of my darkest tunnel, I found Jesus. There are still traces of my darkness everywhere I go in life, and I notice them with open-minded awareness, knowing that I have been there before, but no longer need to go there. In other words, my darkness is not my identity. When I reminisce on what I went through, I am very grateful l am not going through that anymore, and I’m more confident that whatever comes my way, I will face with a much more mature, developed, and wise mentality.

I have learned a lot from going through very difficult traumas; the divorce of my parents probably the most difficult, along with my battle of finding purpose by spiritually suffocating on disbelief. In learning, I am less surprised by what comes my way now. It may still hurt, and it may even provoke shock and certainly deep pain, but nothing like what I experienced as a child. I can refer back to how hard those experiences were for me, and look forward with more assuredness in myself. But that mindset is only possible because I believe in Christ! Christ allowed those traumas to happen to me, knowing how they would help transform me into a stronger person in the long run. And indeed, they have!

All the credit of my wisdom, strength, knowledge, and reasons for my gratefulness all go to Jesus. My darkness is something I consider a gift now because of what I’ve learned from living through it. Like a blessing in disguise.

What does your darkness tell you about yourself? How do the words here help you see others with their darkness? We all have it, just as we all have light; whether or not we decide to access it and use it for the betterment of ourselves and others. How do you view your darkness when you consider the ways you could use it for good? How have you learned to say ‘no’ to the parts of your darkness which no longer push you along in your personal growth? If you haven’t yet reached a point in your life where that is possible, how might you consider what unhealthy ways your darkness is leaving on your life? In which relationships is your darkness making the heaviest impact, and are those the type of relationships that make you feel validated, accepted, and loved? Does your darkness demand attention from people who aren’t responding to you appropriately? If your darkness demands attention, then y0u may want to consider how important it is for you to be defined by your darkness.

I decided when I was 22 that I wanted to change my life and give it to Jesus. The reason is because He was sinless and yet, while all of us were still sinners, He died for every single person ever to exist. And He did it out of love. That’s the kind of God I want to follow. That’s the kind of God who understands darkness; One who has been to the gates of Hell itself and taken the keys so I never have to go there. My darkness is not important to me other than in the sense that I may reference it in order to relate to others who still live with theirs. I know my story, and I’m glad to share it with those whom it would help, but it doesn’t do any good in my life anymore. Darkness is a lesson to be learned—not a lifestyle or mentality to live into. My lesson was that I am not worthless, that I am loved, that I am worth the love of God through Christ; and that no matter what I experienced growing up, the love of God is permanent, overcoming, transcendent, everlasting, unconditional, unfathomable, and pure. There is no reason for me to return to my darkness because the God of creation loves me more than I could ever imagine.

The darkness in my life had its time. I learned my lessons. Now God resides where that darkness was, and though I can still speak for it when needed, God is so much more important and invaluable now than my darkness ever was. I hope that this is hopeful news for you, and that you, too,  can be encouraged to bring your darkness to the One who saves, Jesus; and that you can embrace that friendship of all friendships– the most intimate bond of all bonds—releasing your darkness to Him, allowing Him to use you for the betterment of the world.

That is why we’re here; to be a light. Shine your light and point straight to Jesus, and watch Him change lives.

Darkness

Finding Hope In the Sky

While we are, in the most realistic and literalistic sense, looking at an aerosol comprising a visible mass of minute liquid droplets or frozen crystals, or clouds— I believe when we humans look up to the sky, we are looking for and at something much more significant, mesmerizing, and meaningful than mere nephology. 

Surely, there are those who look at the sky and get carried away with the science behind how those “beautiful, white, puffy things” got there, but truly there is more to the spectacle of the sky than science and all the rules abound to it.

The sky holds a treasure unlike many other venues of nature, especially in the sense that we have to look up in order to see the sky. That majestic, gigantic blue ceiling of our planet in a sense, foreshadows what is “out there”, beyond our comprehension. And most naturally, the human race has the most developed sense of curiosity; we carry in our design the means of asking the most in-depth, philosophical, religious, psychological, emotional questions of any other race. Therefore, looking to the sky– as if answers will fall on us from above–is a particular act of hope that the human spirit recognizes as acknowledgment that we want there to be more than this; tinkering with the idea that we hope for the sky, and all those mysterious clouds, to be, in the least, a metaphorical doorway we simply can’t walk through yet, but which represents all the opportunity, mystery, and extravagance of what lies beyond this lifetime.

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30)

This verse is my hope when I look to the clouds in the sky; the most significant sign of hope in the history to come. I admire the clouds, I appreciate the blueprint of the sky the way the God Almighty fidgets with it every day, and I will appreciate His decoration for our eyes tomorrow–but I look forward to seeing Jesus coming back with a much more glorifying presence than any other before Him.

Looking to the sky, I have admiration for the beauty of this world, and an appreciation for the marvel of this lifetime while I am still here to appreciate it. But I am not stuck on its temporal marvel. The very Creator of the marvelous is still to come, and that is something I look forward to much more intensely than any Earthly sight I could behold.

There is no need to rid ourselves of our admiration for nature; after all, God’s first creations on Earth were the water and the land. We would take a liking to His early work. But not get stuck thinking this is the culmination: this is the foreshadow. We will not just find the culmination, we will find its Creator Himself; the epitome of perfection. I’m keeping my eyes on the clouds, excitedly awaiting the next most exciting, significant event in human history: Jesus returning to take his Kingship over the world.

What are you looking at when you see the sky? What is your hope today?

Clouds

The Art Of Authenticity

Say your friend gives you a gift, and their lips and cheeks are curled into a smile, but their eyes lay flat—how does taking their gift make you feel? Even for the people with little knowledge of body language can discern something off about a person’s countenance when two different muscle groups are not agreeing with each other on the same emotion; we can tell when others give something because they feel obligated to give, or when their generosity is genuine and unconditional.

Authenticity is our second greatest gift to ourselves, penultimate to loving ourselves the way Jesus loves us. The truest way we see ourselves authentically is without any facades, masks, or obscurations. How hard can it be?

The way we know when we are being authentic is whether the version of ourselves we are around people is the same version we aren’t afraid to be behind closed doors. Frankly, that is the best ‘self’ we can manage to embrace because, alternatively, with so many layers of secrets, all authenticity gets lost in the enormous black abyss of duplicity.

If who you are when others can’t hear or see you is different than the way you are with people, then perhaps one of the best questions to ask yourself is what you have to hide? There is no reason why you can’t be you. The only person stopping you from being your most organically natural self is you, and one of the only reasons you can conjure up to excuse that truth is by being too fearful of the world’s prejudice. What is it about the world’s censure that makes you so afraid to be the best you can be? Are you afraid of being unaccepted? Are you less afraid of the world morphing your character into one massive lie so that the false version of you can fit in; while the authentic you waits until you’re alone again? Which one of these fears takes priority for you?

As every day ends, what matters most is that you are honest with yourself. Being honest with yourself enables you to show others the most honest version of you, and that is pivotal to accepting yourself, as well as the enabling of others to be able to accept the real you, and not the false pretense version of you as influenced by the world.

One truth that I love to refer back to is the authenticity of Jesus Christ. Even as the Pharisees would try to trap Him in a political or theological lie, He always had a valid rebuttal that minimized their redundant religious quarrels. Jesus’ authenticity drew crowds around Him, and His character was genuinely loving, compassionate, confident, knowledgeable; obstinate, and never unfair. His words were used for the amelioration of others, and His rebukes were always righteous. As the opposite—an unauthentic person draws hypocrisy into their soul, dividing their ratiocination between self-deprecation and extrapolation of self-worth by worldly judgment.

Various situations call for different aspects of ourselves. Politics, for instance, request that we expose our intentions and clearly communicate what they are. Of course, politics are a microcosm of their own, having been misconducted through generations past—damaging the retention of authenticity with the interjection of duplicity. What is hard about retaining our authenticity in politics is allowing humility to transcend selfishness in attaining our pursuits, engulfing our spirit of humility in deceitfulness. We congratulate our proactivity, confidence, and bold pertinacity, but end up dismissing the questionable method we “must” undergo to achieve its results, undermining the importance of the retention of truth, and the underrated necessity of transparency—both the underscoring floorboards of authenticity itself.

Authenticity in relationships require us to be aware of who we are, what we want, how we feel, and that we have a matured degree of selflessness about us; spacial enough to extend our greatest and most distinguishing human ability: to love another person. These human facets are obscured and made confusing, even to ourselves—and are therefore impossible to embrace and imbue into our being—if we are not the truest version of ourselves with others.

These examples of authenticity are not to be confused with the dangerous perspectives of transparency which express we should expose who we are in ways we would consider intrusive and unnecessary. We can’t afford, for the sake of retaining our most genuine selves–letting the world convince us that we need to sound a certain way, dress a certain way, or prove our worth using any method outside the natural expressions of our public behavior, the way we respond to people on a regular basis, and what we believe in based on our own experiences. Authenticity demands of others that they see us for us regardless of judgment.

No, we can’t stop others from judging us, this is absolutely true. But what we can do, what we do, in fact, have control over– is the way we deal with others’ judgment. The weight we put on the opinion of the people we feel judged by reveals a lot about our dependency on their approval for our self-validation. The world is transformed day by day, just as we are. But transformation can mean improving oneself, or deteriorating and falling apart. Amelioration is the betterment of something. The amelioration of a person means to better oneself; straightening out your priorities, and choosing to love rather than being hollow or selfish. Deterioration of character is the choice to allow the world and all its criticism to conquer our minds, our choices, and lastly our actions. Letting this happen is the picture of giving back to the world what we receive from it: pain, bitterness, judgment, anger, and resentment. These feelings are all valid, but they are not the effective constituents of building the road to the improvement of our best selves. Our best selves would not ridicule, vindicate, or even the score with those who have caused us turmoil and hardship; Jesus taught that by example by dying on the cross when He’d done nothing wrong.

I challenge you to see for yourself what your own authenticity looks like, and to burrow through what may be causing you to procrastinate, or to altogether be afraid of what the best version of you looks like to you. Genuineness comes with accepting who we are, which means liking who we are—flaws and all. Whether you have a lisp, curly hair, or you have a dancing style that others may give strange looks to–none of these should stop you from being you, always! These are merely examples, but the point is that of all the multifarious ways people are unique, different, and stand out, may very well not always be welcomed by the world. That is just a truth we have to accept while living in a world corrupted with sin, a heavy cesspool of judgment, and poorly developed faith in a God who we are designed to find our purpose, worth, and validation in anyways; not the world.  This doesn’t make you any less worth who you are, and this can’t stop you from being more like you every day. Whether you sing loud in the shower, or you listen to one song every day for hours back-to-back, there is nothing wrong with you having parts of your character which others simply don’t understand or appreciate. These are still parts of you which do not change your worth! In fact, these define you more because they come from within. They make you smile, they inspire you to think and be what others aren’t. And others could never be you.

There is nothing quite more extraordinary than being who you are, all the time. Being anyone else is robbing the world of something magnificent, treasurable, and worthy of being seen, noticed, and experienced. If you find several who can’t notice that, just keep on being you. Someone will see you and love what they witness. You are a sight and a character to behold, and everything about you is screaming that. Let those who have ears to hear and eyes to see appreciate the parts of you which no one else can replicate or copy, and witness the parts of you that can inspire, motivate, and bring others to their best authentic self as well. We are all inspirations. We are all role models—if we bring out our most authentic selves and allow them to bloom in all their likeness.

In closing this post, I want to mention how I love the concept of a flower being an exemplar of authenticity, as inanimate as a flower is. This example is an illustration that, like a flower, we need to be exactly the way we were made to be. A flower can’t really be anything but a flower, and we can’t be anything but human, but a flower won’t try to be a different kind of flower, so we should we try to pretend we are like someone else? A flower is a flower, or it’s nothing at all. What does that say about you? What does that say about us as a society?

You were meant to be seen. You have much to show the world. And they have much to see and learn from you. We all have something to learn from each other. And when we finally get through to someone, we can point them towards the Source of all authenticity: Christ Himself.

Take your first step and show them what you’re made of. The world needs the real you.

Facade

Influencing the Next Generation With What Matters Most

Generation to generation, we are called to make a difference in the world. I appreciate the educational system for trying its best to draw a picture of what a positive difference looks like, in the hopes that its students will glean promising life lessons to apply in the real world. However, many times, the teachings end up failing in the hands of dichotomy and dissension, influenced by society resisting the idea of standing on the foundation of a higher power. When society chooses to see the world without God, the empty space where God is meant to rule with love is quickly replaced with narcissism, and where there is narcissism, there is purposelessness; there is no purpose in the self without love to define it. Ultimately, a society founded without God is a crowd of lost people vying for purpose without strategy, aim, or hope.

If we are meant to be taught that we can make a difference, in what ways are we instructed to do that? And who is leading by example as to what kind of difference that looks like? To provide an illustration, I will use the example of the classroom.

When we are instructed by teachers to practice responsibility, the context is just as important as the substance of the lesson. The context for an instruction such as responsibility may mean giving an example of what kinds of responsibilities will be used outside the school walls, which responsibilities should be taken more seriously, and which are less crucial than others. The substance would be the reason for having any responsibility in the first place. For instance, a teenager with a curfew needs an incentive in order to take the rule seriously, and not try to evade punishment for breaking it. Similarly, if education doesn’t explain the reason for its teachings, the effect is similar to that of telling students not to think of a white elephant: they’re going to think of a white elephant, and only a white elephant—right away. If a teacher instructs a student not to turn in a paper late, perhaps a useful tool in teaching responsibility is incentivizing the student with something to look forward to if they try harder; perhaps turning in a paper on time is the first step towards being responsible enough to achieve the long-term goal of getting a job, paying for a date, or getting their own car. Students need more than a rule: they need a reason to hope for something better.

For all the other teachers in every other settings of life, we are teaching the next generation how to act, speak, think, and dress; what to believe in or what not to; how to vote, when to be quiet versus when to speak up; when to be brave or risky, and when to take a breath and be patient. There are life lessons for every facet of a person’s reality, and these instructions are far more crucial to a students’ future reality than any other. These are the principles which define the action and choice of a student before they ever have the chance to use the educational instruction of the classroom. Do we teach these principles? What exactly do we want the next generation to take moving forward if not how to deal with the reality of their futures? If students have to wait until college to truly experience the grittiness of the real world, how much more will they have to learn, and that much faster, if they never had the prerequisites engrained beforehand?

Following this hand of cards, God must be the one holding our ability to choose what we play. Children are coming to know the malady of depression like never before, and not knowing God during this process makes the period spent in depression feel like living in Hell. A lot of the education system is public and secular, and students aren’t given even the most rudimentary instruction on how to deal with depression or the question of purpose in life. Students who are thrown into the real world without a clue as to what purpose responsibility or key principles have in life will be drowned out by the absence of reason before they ever knock on the door of chance.

When we tell kids who are depressed from the unfairness and corruption of the world to just cheer up and be happy without reminding them that Jesus loves them, what reason do they have to appreciate our words? Will powering our way through adversity is simply not an effective way to find healing; will power is a gift from God, and to use it without His help renders the gift pointless. Will power only gets us so far in life; belief in something higher than ourselves ruling over life with love is what gives us true strength in the face of adversity.

I know this sounds heavy and deep, but it is relevant and necessary: Are we aware of the importance of our souls—as aware as we are of taking responsibility seriously when we enter the job market; or try buying a car? When the next generation goes home at night, do they know, deep down, that they’re loved by more than just biological family? Worded differently—when family dies, who do they turn to? What are we leaving the next generation with, if not God?

Growing up, I didn’t have God in my heart, and no one seemed able to explain Him to me. What of the next generations? If we don’t instill God into the hearts of who is to become the next adult generation, then we will have a secular society defining morality without a reference as to what defines good or evil, and when morality loses its foundation, it is overridden by narcissism and selfishness. When society chooses to see life without God, depression is an inconvenience that deserves no compassion, and purpose becomes a scoff of the heart. If we teach our future generations that morality has no heart and purpose has no soul, then we are teaching the future to live without a reason to try. And that isn’t inspirational or uplifting at all, is it?

If we want to show the world how to love, we need to know the source of love, and that is God. Jesus came to Earth as the physical manifestation of what God is, so that we would have something to emulate, reference, and relate to. Jesus was more than a man; He was and is the supreme example of what we need to teach our next generations to pursue; with all their heart, all their mind, all their strength, and all their soul. If we choose to turn Jesus into a scoff, then not only has religion become a joke, but what follows is the meaning behind our every breath becomes a matter of what we can take from life, and not what we can give in service to a God who provides all that we have.

Jesus is real to me, and I want Him to be real for you, as well. I’m scared for our future generations because I already hear Jesus used as a joke in conversation; His name is being awkwardly brought up in younger crowds. Kids seem to view Jesus as only the distant figure of a myth; something to pass their glance at like a billboard sign. If the person of Jesus remains as distant as a myth is to the skeptic, then our hearts cannot be renewed. What is life without faith, and what is the reason for our existence if we do not believe in embracing a faith that defines our purpose? Even kids want to know why they’re alive. I wanted to desperately understand why I was alive during many suicidal years in my teens. And guess what? I didn’t have Jesus in my teens. Can you understand my deep concern for those who don’t have Him right now in theirs? Truly, I am mortified of a future where kids laugh at faith, believing religion and all its stricture is at the heart of what Jesus wants with us. That is a fallacy written by years of skepticism and hermeneutic censure. I understand the the Bible is difficult to follow sometimes, but if we overlook the purpose of Jesus telling us to love one another, and that He died and rose again so that we would know there is hope in our future—then our decision to overlook such a prominent event in history will change the course of humanity for the worst.

The message I want you to take from this post is that Jesus is more than a man, and that I would love for you to receive Him with a softened, open heart. Religion is not attached to my hopes for you—I only want you to experience Jesus’ love; not religion or rules. Jesus wants you to know that He loves you beyond your ability to comprehend, and that He doesn’t want you living without purpose or meaning. He wants to be the meaning of your life, and the driving force behind why you do what you do. Without living for Him, everything we do is not aiming towards eternity, and Jesus did not come to plant the message of unconditional love for it to wane and fade away into a lost species living for the ephemeral desires of indulgence. Jesus died and rose for us to understand that there is a reason why we’re alive, and that it is to love each other; and more importantly, to surrender ourselves to a God who cares more for us than we could imagine. Treating this like a myth is the most rueful mistake we can make as a race because it means undermining our ability to receive a love that isn’t conditional or lustful; but is permanent, unconditional, and eternal. Only Christ is capable of that kind of love, and He extends it to us all. I write this post to hopefully inspire you to try to open your heart to what that means for you.

We don’t have to live one more day without knowing why we breathe our next breath. Jesus can be that purpose, to live to know that we’re loved, and to love others from the joy and hope that comes from knowing we are loved in this way. There’s nothing like it! I invite you to try to soften your heart and open your mind to the possibility that Jesus is more than a carpenter, and more than a man; He is God Incarnate, and His sacrifice on the cross was for you, and all of humanity–so that we could receive His love.

The world will never respond to us the way we need it because the world doesn’t have the kind of love Jesus can give. But we can all inspire each other, passing down through the generations the love that Jesus passes down to us all. That is what He calls us to do when He said, “feed my sheep”; we are the sheep, or the people who need His love. Can we try to accept His offer to love us the way He wants to so desperately?

What does it mean to you to know that we were created to be loved by God? That is your purpose. To be loved, and to love in return, filled with the joy of what it means to be loved by a God capable of making all things new in our lives. With all the darkness and corruption in this world, we can definitely see our need for a Savior to love us and show us the way. Jesus is that Savior, and His light will undoubtedly show us the way. Would you be willing to put your trust in Him and receive His offer of love to you? Will you receive that invitation and be transformed by it? I hope you will choose this today and be renewed in your spirit, believing in the love God has for you in your heart. You were made for this; you breathe your next breath for this. You were meant to live like this all day, every day. Can you accept that? Will you receive that? It’s yours. Be blessed, readers!

Chaotic