A few weeks ago I enrolled in an online photography course. Well, two actually. I have a new camera and am determined to learn how to use it without just resorting to the usual presets. I want to create my own photographs. So far, I have been learning about shutter speed and aperture and exposure compensation, drawing diagrams and making pages and pages of meticulous notes, dragging my roommate out for walks under the pretense of exercise just to be able to try out each step I have learned. But in all that headache-inducing study, what I’ve learned is that photography really just comes down to one simple thing: light.
Creating a photograph all hinges on one thing; whether that picture will be a good one or a bad one, whether the colors will pop or be muted, it all boils down to how much light you let in.
And isn’t that the same for our lives and walk with God?
…it’s all about how much light you let in…
Jesus is the Light of the World. In John 12 we read his words: ‘I am the Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark’ (12:46). That’s amazing enough as it is, the fact that we know Him who came to give light, to be light, in this world. But it’s even more amazing…
As a lover of language, I find idioms fascinating. I always wonder where those turns of phrase we hear and use so often actually come from. One phrase I have always found particularly lovely is ‘he/she carries a torch for you’, that phrase used to talk about someone loving you, being in love with you, even when that love may is not reciprocated. It’s thought that the origins of this idiom lie in Greek or Roman traditions, where torches would be lit for wedding celebrations. It’s meaning hangs on the idea of love as a flame, a flame burning brightly, and it paints a picture of one who’s love burns still even when unreturned, carried alone like a torch in front of them.
This idiom captures what I think has become a problem for some Christians. We accept that Jesus is the Light of the World. We tell others He is the Light of the World. But here’s what’s happened: we carry that love like a burning torch in front of us. We let it light our way, yes; we keep it burning and hold it out in front of us, yes. Don’t mistake what I’m saying here: we are absolutely supposed to let God’s word be a lamp to our feet (Ps. 119:105). We are supposed to be a shining light for others to see (Matt. 5:14). No question there. But remember what the idiom means: unrequited love. If we treat Jesus’ love as unrequited, we’re getting it wrong somewhere…
If unrequited love is like carrying a torch, what is mutual love like? Well for a start, I don’t think it requires us to carry anything. If you are loved so greatly, and love so greatly, it’s within you. It shines out, not from a thing you carry in your hands, but from the very heart and soul of you. Now that’s more like it!
So let’s take a look at that Light of the World thing again. In John 12:36 Jesus says this: ‘…believe in the light. Then the light will be within in you, and shining through your lives. You’ll be children of light.’
Jesus does not say, ‘Here’s a light, carry it in front of you’. A lamp can be put out. A lamp can be too small in vast darkness. A lamp can become heavy to carry. What Jesus says is ‘Here, now you are the light’. If we take it to heart, that’s where Jesus’ light stays. We become the light of Jesus because it – He – is in us, and for that reason He shines ever more brightly through every smile, every step, every word, every part of our lives. That kind of light cannot be put out.
In my photography experiments I’ve been taking photos of the same scene, playing with the light each time. It’s amazing how much light can change the same scene. The colors change, the shadows change, the focus of your attention where your eye is drawn changes. The mood changes. All because of how much light the photographer lets in. Our lives are the same. Our mood, our focus, the colors people see, the sharp points and soft points and what people see in each moment or scene… it all depends on how much of Jesus’ light we let in.
It’s not about asking for more of God’s light to shine on us; it’s about asking for more of God’s light to shine in us. If we can be brave and bold enough to shine more brightly with God’s love, our lives might start to look a little different, and the lives of those arounds us might start to look a little different too. God’s light changes things: it’s what it all boils down to. So the question is, how much light will you let in?