Truth Shines in the Darkness

We near Christmas. I took this picture tonight of the tree out front of our chapel.

Reflecting on today a thought that keeps coming to mind is that truth should win. I've had occasions to say that several times in the past few months. Life can be challenging enough just from the circumstances it can throw your way. As a chaplain I have an opportunity to be invited into the lives of many people who are hurting for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is plain circumstances that have come together in such a way that options are limited and reality is painful. But other times it is human behavior that is the major source of difficulty. Sometimes truth is hard to swallow. It can be easy to try to locate the source of one's problem in someone else, anywhere else but in oneself, in one's own fallibility. Sometimes I think the hardest person to look at can be ourselves in our mirrors, especially if we bear our soul and character for honest assessment. But such is good for all of us to do, for I am convinced that spiritual growth requires truth including true self-assessment. But it is hard. Far easier is it to assess others.

One part of my spiritual heritage in our Lutheran liturgy has a confession of sins that is very heavy going something like, "I have sinned by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault..." Sometimes that is true and the knowing of it can be a hard thing for a person to face. Far easier to project fault outward and let ourselves off the hook. But such does not bring growth. Part of my job is to try, without being judgmental or hurtful, to encourage people to look for the truth - even the truth about themselves. I don't tell them what that is, but I encourage them to find it for themselves, for the search for truth is deeply private, deeply personal and the most challenging and rewarding journey that can be taken in this life. No one is perfect and no one needs to make a parade of one's faults for the entire world to see laying bear the weaknesses of our lives, but two need to know. One does know, the God who creates and redeems us. And one needs to know, though that one does not always want to know - and that one is the person him or herself. And the most important thing is not to know and understand the faults of another, but to know and understand one's own character, even its failings. Healing and growth only come from true appraisal of one's self.

And there is the flip side. I've worked with folks who were too hard on themselves assuming guilt were no blame can be assigned. Often victimized by life and by others they assume the role of making a victim of themselves as they go on through life. Once again, truth must win. Light dissolves darkness.

I've seen situations where people deliberately distorted the truth knowing what reality was in an attempt to serve themselves and protect themselves, for personal gain. But I've also seen situations where people create a fantastic world and self view, something I think they come to believe, to protect themselves against the darkness of their own weakness. I think we are all prone to this to one degree or another. Casting blame, rationalizing, selective listening -- its all a part of our nature. I suspect we all fall into this at times. But in the end truth must win - for truth is necessary for growth.

The disappointing thing is that people are often hurt by untruths, even the fantasy worlds they build around themselves to explain their lives. They hurt others. They hurt themselves. Abused people often express to me that somehow they feel like they deserve it. People who victimize others often view the person they hurt as the one who is actually hurting them and their own actions as justifiable defense. Some fantasies are extremely creative and you have to wonder if the person sharing them really believes it. Some people do believe it, truly believe they are the victim and don't see at all that perhaps their own behavior is the primary contributor to the problem. In the midst of all these things, each one is unique, it is not my role to play God and tell them what the truth is regarding their behaviors, that is to be the judge of their hearts and character. I try instead to offer observations, ask questions, teach techniques that help a person achieve a clarity of sight and a sense of safety with themselves and with God that all things can be forgiven and healed, so then it is ok, painful yes, but ok, even necessary for the first step toward healing, to look into the mirror. I tell them the truth about God and His love and mercy. I tell them the truth about what is good, right and healthy for human behavior and what is hurtful. But I try hard not to cast myself as superior and judge them. We should judge ourselves, but in truth not fantasy. Truth is a good thing. But it can be hard to accomplish, clear seeing.

So the picture above is very metaphoric for me. It not only visually represents the coming of Christ into the world, the light that shines in the darkness, but also reminds me that darkness is a present reality in this world and the light of truth is necessary that evil shall not win.

The scene above has a beauty because it has promise in the contrast. A little bit of light goes a long way. A little bit of light can warm the deepest darkness. Isn't it amazing that the huge dark night of Osan cannot swallow the smallest little light on a Christmas tree, but these simple little lights shine forth and penetrate the darkness and make something new - something beautiful. Truth is a beautiful thing.