My random subjects for this week: Zombie Kangaroos and Light Pollution. How to make sense of that?
It’s getting dark running the John Forrest National Park trail at six o’clock these mornings. It just seems a few weeks ago that I could step out at 5:30 into brilliant sunshine. And now? Dark. Pitch black. Cold and windy. And occasionally a little bit scary, especially when three large kangaroos come crashing over the crest onto the track in front of me, before bounding off down the hillside. Three series of zombie cult classic The Walking Dead can play havoc with the imagination on a dark lonely forest trail. Add to that the lonely swoosh of wind in trees, plus no other living (as opposed to “undead” – Ed) human being around, and the heart can race along far ahead of my running pace. All I need now are zombie kangaroos, bounding aimlessly, feebly waving their front paws in front of them and early morning winter trail running is history for me.
I’ve taken to running with a small LED headlamp that points downwards. As I switched it on the other morning this well known verse from the Psalm that celebrates God’s word snapped into my brain:
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
As that narrow beam of light lit the gravel trail in front of me, guiding me past divots, larger rocks and branches, the significance of that verse struck me. The light of the word is not simply for illumination, observation, or to enable you to make sense of your situation, it is primarily for safety. It is to ensure that you are not injured or lost on the journey. It will guide you to take the right step and direct you away from the wrong step. It will enable you to avoid a pothole, a pitfall, or even a fatal fall. It is that crucial. When there is no light surrounding you, you need a light with you, and that is what God’s word is to us.
Light pollution is one of the major environmental issues of the 21st century. It is hard to get away from light – even in the dark. With more than fifty per cent of the world’s population living in cities, there are soon going to be many people who never see a starry night sky. Light is seeping in everywhere. Light pollution makes us take light for granted. We know that because when there is a power outage we still instinctively flick on the light as we go through the rooms of our house. We laugh at ourselves, only to do it again five minutes later.
Light pollution is not simply a physical problem, but, in the context of what Psalm 119:105 says, it easily becomes a spiritual problem too. The Psalmist says that the word is a light that guides us and keeps us from danger. The New Testament reveals the fullest extension of that light – Jesus (John1:9). However it is easy to despise this light when there is so much other “light” around us. Jesus easily becomes just one source of light, or even a lesser light, in a culture – and a church – in which there is so much else to guide us and give us advice. The surrounding culture will go as far as calling the light that Jesus brings “darkness”, but even the church is guilty of diminishing the true light by seeking illumination, guidance and meaning in so many other places. And dare I say it, light pollution is the scourge of the Christian bookshop, for example. Row upon row of lights competing with each other for attention. Many good in themselves, but taken together, bringing light pollution.
This light pollution lessens, in our minds, the sheer necessity of the true Light to bring us safely through our marriage, or into psychological security and emotional well-being, out of bondage, into satisfaction, free us from addictions, or heal our pain. I love books, I love learning, so don’t hear me wrong. But the sheer volume of Christian books in the past sixty years does not seem to be matched by a growing appreciation of Scripture, a deeper understanding of it, or a rising wonder at the one who is the Light at the centre of it. If anything, biblical illiteracy is on the rise among Christians who are, at the same time, blinded by millions of lesser lights. Does that simply mean we don’t know the Bible that well? No, it also means we may not know Jesus that well, because the Scriptures are those that testify to him.
Challenge yourself. How many words from Scripture were read out at church on the weekend? Was there a place in the meeting in which those words were explained and applied (monologue/dialogue/bit of both). How many words of Scripture have you read yourself this week (it’s only Tuesday night, so plenty of the week left!) In what way did those words point to the safety of Jesus and away from the potholes, pitfalls and fatal falls? Could it be possible that light pollution is endangering us? Lulling us into thinking that our steps are being guided and our feet directed, when in fact they are not? The only illumination of the age to come will be God’s glory – personified in Jesus himself (Isaiah 60:19 & Revelation 21:23). Now that will be some light to bask in.