When a Dim Light Flickers: The Fall
When everything hurts and everyone’s broken and the darkness is closing in—tell me, what is “this little light of mine” going to do in a sea of black?
The other day, I’m sitting in this tiny Vietnamese restaurant watching a little boy steal all of the lollipops out of their little fish bowl. He popped one into his mouth and started watching the TV. It was some sort of news special on Syrian refugees. A little girl was talking about what toys she missed from home. She started to cry, and after about 30 seconds, the little boy took the lollipop out of his mouth and set it on the table.
His mom looked up from her soup and said, “Eat your candy, Nev.” But he kept his eyes on the screen and said, “Why can’t she have it?” His mom ignored him and went on reading, but I knew he was talking about the girl on the TV.
“Why can’t she have it?”
There was beauty in that moment, but as I thought about it longer, the faint echo of a lie emerged as well.
Something in him, some grieving part of his soul hidden even from himself, no longer wished to participate in the joy of creation, because of one startling glimpse at the despair of the Fall.
What do we do when the reality of the Fall has entwined itself so mercilessly around our view of future, that work—reconciling, light-shining, day-in-day-out work—feels more like a naïve children’s song than any kind of true kingdom cultivation?
Step 1: REMEMBER
If a theme emerges in God’s response to the Israelites’ cry of anguish and disappointment, it is one of remembrance. When the questions begin to stir—Why are we here? What is the point? Will it ever get better?—God offers one ringing reply.
God calls His people to remember where they came from, to remember what He has already done, and to remember what He has promised He will do.
We serve a God who has already done great things. He has rescued nations, ended wars, and purchased us out of darkness so we can stand with Him in the light. So when everything around us begs the question “Is anything really getting better?” we can look back on all that He has done and all He has promised to do, and we gain perspective.
For ask now of the days that are past, long before your time, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of fire, as you have heard, and still live? Or has any god ever attempted to go and free another nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and by great deeds of terror, all of which the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? —Deuteronomy 4:32-34
Step 2: IMAGINE
The biggest gift in a world where everything seems to be broken is being given a wrench. God has not left us powerless, but He desires and commands for us ourselves to be agents of healing. He calls us to not only grieve over what is, but to dream up what could be.
Throughout scripture, before rushing in to rescue, God consistently asks people what they want. What do you wish for me to do? Some dream of being healed, Elisha of a double portion of God’s spirit, others of an end to famine and war. A ripple of grace is that God is not just fixing what’s broken. He is creating a space for us to imagine what could be and then hears our cries.
God so profoundly loves the world He has created that His path to redeeming it teaches us to love it with Him. Love it enough to dream for it. So when everything around us begs the question “Is it even worth it?” we ask God to revive our imaginations, because God only creates things worth saving.
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” —Psalm 126:1-2
Hope is a thing for a reason. Better is possible and God has promised it. When we understand that much, then—and only then—will our outlooks on life, love, and work no longer be dictated by the brokenness of the world, but by the abounding grace of God—a hope rooted in one simple promise, sometimes a whisper, sometimes a shout, but always from a throne: “See here, I am making all things new.”
Nicole Arthur ministers to college students at Immaculata University and West Chester University of Pennsylvania in a partnership between the CCO and the Church of the Good Samaritan.