When I started this blog last year, I decided to call it "Light and Grace." I wanted to distinguish my writing from the thousands of other blogs out there. I hoped that by creating this title, I would stick with those two words as a common thread throughout my writings.
You might notice that I’ve recently given the site a mini-makeover. I’ve dropped the title and instead called the website by simply my name. These are my musings on life and faith. I’m giving you a window into everything I’m experiencing, right here and right now.
I wanted my site to look softer and almost ethereal in a way. I want the images to evoke the deep-rooted joy I have in my life. While the header on my site no longer says “light,” I’d like the images and the content to still feel illuminating. I loved the old images on my site and when I initially created it, they were the right fit. They felt moody and a bit more serious. And last summer, that’s how I felt in my life—more serious, more somber, and less content. Today I don’t think those images fully capture who I am or how I feel about my life. I’m more hopeful and content now, and I’d like this blog to be a place where you can come for hope, encouragement, and truth.
Because the truth is that the author of my story is far greater than I am, and He's writing a tale much better than I could ever try to plot out. There’s grace weaved throughout that narrative, in times of joy and peace but also during period of suffering and anxiety.
I believe this with my whole heart, and as I move forward I want my posts to continue to reflect the ideas of light and grace.
I try to live my life full of light and grace. But, last night, as I sat in an old, drafty, candle-lit church for Ash Wednesday, I started to ask,
How much am I really walking in the light?
I don’t say that to get down on myself, and I don’t say it because I expect perfection. I’m not asking this question because I think I need to be perfect in my walk, or because I think being a Christian means never making a mistake. None of those things are true.
I genuinely wonder how much my life, especially my past year since my baptism, has been spent walking in the light. I launched this blog, where I've talked about being a light to others. It’s something I strive to do—yet I know there are parts deep within me still embattled in darkness. There are those habitual things I do that I know are wrong, but I’m turning a blind eye to light and resting in the familiarity of darkness.
And truth be told, it doesn’t even feel that dark anymore. I’ve let the dark seep in through the tiniest of cracks, dimming the light every so slightly and happening so that I don’t really notice it all. I won’t notice it until the dark is overwhelming.
So I ask that question. How much am I—are we—walking in the light?
In many ways, 2015 was a hard year for me. It was refining and beautiful, a time of serious pruning. I experienced such good growth, even though some of it came through pain and hurt. I also started to be honest about my struggles. I talked openly with friends, with community, and even with readers on the Internet who I’ve never met. I built up this bubble around me of light and life-giving relationships.
At the same time, there was a lot of mess brewing in my heart. The struggles with comparison, perfectionism, control, and pride were not just in the past but very much alive and well in the present.
I could say things like “the struggle is real” and embrace that culture of authenticity we New Yorkers love so much. Authentic living is the gold standard. (I’m looking at you, Socality Barbie.) Love your flaws! Embrace who you are! Do you.
In the midst of all the “doing you,” we can forget that there is such a thing as right and wrong. There is a law—one full of grace—that governs our lives. Yes, being who I was created to be is absolutely important. Uniqueness is a gift we each are given, and loving myself is so very valid. But I don’t want to just be who I am—I want to be like Jesus.
There’s no doubt in my mind that I was meant to hear a particular message on light and darkness in church last night:
“'The struggle is real' is not repentance,”
said my pastor.
I’m all about admitting my struggles. I think part of me almost views them as a way to say, Yeah I’m not perfect. Look at all the ways I’ve screwed up, and look at ways I’m still a mess. But God loves me. I know this is 100 percent true. I struggle and God still calls me back to Him.
Except I forget about the part where He redeems and heals. Instead I take that struggle and set it on a shelf—a very high shelf that’s rather dark and dirty. The struggle just sits there, like an old library book collecting dust. It’s part of the collection and it’s in the system, but it’s never really checked out.
It’s time to check it out.
Acknowledging the struggle is great, but I think we’re called to do more than that. Lent is a reminder that we are made anew. We have hope—our God is one who heals and who brings us back to life. His mercies are new every morning. We get to experience true restoration. But we have to be willing to walk in the light.
I’ll be honest: I have been walking in the shadow.
I’ve been completely open about where I’m at, but I don’t know that I’ve really repented. I’ve let certain struggles become habits, and as habits they quite frankly don’t bother me that much anymore. They don’t seem like that big of a deal. It’s that feeling of complacency that scares me. I'll tell people, hey, I struggle but it’s part of who I am, and I know I’m still a good person. God still loves me.
God, I don’t want complacency.
I want the darkness to appall me. I want it to be so unappealing that I can’t help but to turn away. I’ve let the “struggle is real” become my fallback, and I’m sorry. I’m ready to make a change.
I’m praying that my eyes would be opened to darkness—that I would actively decide to step out of it. I believe real freedom, healing, and hope are available for us if we choose to embrace it.
This Lenten season (and beyond), I’m praying Psalm 139.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
And I’m choosing to walk in the light.