WE ARE NOT ALONE IN THE DARK
Have you ever ridden I-59 in the dark between Gadsden Alabama and the Georgia line? As you go up and down those mountains, you can see lights in the distance. Most of them are homes hugging the sides of the mountains twinkling in the dark.
I have seen them many times and I imagine that these are happy homes. The hearth burns bight. Families are gathered in for the evening, share a meal and after the appropriate time, go to bed and sleep warmly.
The thought always comes to me, as beautiful as the sight and the idea is, I don’t belong there. I am outsider looking in, someone who is not wanted. It is a chilling, lonely thought, to exist and to be among a people and not belong. Of course when I stand off at a distance, things and people are colored by my imagination. It may be a terrible home where the children are hungry and the father is abusive and the mother is a drunk. But my heart is hopeful that what I see is all good.
To be an outsider is lonely. In that outside place there is no love or grace or warmth or even value. You are just a shadow at best, a passerby who does not belong. No one wants to know that you exist much less give you the dignity of belonging. You are alone in the dark.
Most of us have felt alone and out of place. Part of the Christian message is that we are not alone. Not only has God revealed himself as our creator, he has visited among us. John called him The Light in a world of darkness. But is this light an inviting light, or is it another moment when we are our side looking in? In John 14:1-6, Jesus tells his disciples that they have a place. Jesus said that he was going home to prepare a place for them. It is an eternal place and one day he would receive us to himself so that we may be with him. Those who follow Christ are never left in the dark and they have a place.
Thomas, I like Thomas because he is so much like many of us. He exclaimed, “We do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus made a response that most people have heard, “I am the way, and the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.”
We do not have to stand in the darkness, looking at the lights and wondering what is inside. God has made us a part of the family. We have the hearth and home with Christ at the center. I know it is easy to feel lonely, as if we do not belong. Sometimes we feel our journey is like a dark lonely road at night. We may be able to see for miles but we feel as if we are alone. Not only is God with us, but he has given us a people to whom we belong. That people is called church, it is the community of faith knitted together by God himself.
Our sense of belonging becomes a beacon to others lost in the dark. We are like an inviting, well lit house with a warm hearth. How horrible it would be for someone to venture into a church and feel like an outsider, like they don’t belong! How could God’s church be anything other than an open community, seeking out the stranger so that he or she might become family?
We are on a journey. Many of the places that we pass by are places where we don’t belong. We are not wanted. We are but mere shadows passing through an alien world. But that is ok because we are not alone in the dark. Christ shows us the way. Even now we can see the faint glow of the City of God off in the distance. We know that at the end of our journey, we have a home.