Here in Memphis summer is in full swing. It’s downright hot and going to get hotter, I’m sure. But the long stretches of daylight and warm weather are welcome.
Have you noticed that you see your neighbors more because it’s not dark before you’ve had your supper? Kids can play in yards and parks. Gardening and mowing lawns bring folks outside, and church softball leagues and other community sports give us reasons to be out enjoying the evenings. Riverfronts and golf courses call us to come soak up some sun. In the northern hemisphere, the month of June brings us the day with the longest amount of light for the whole year, and getting out in the light chases away the winter blues.
As we revel in summer’s light, let me suggest another light to celebrate.
“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16).
The transition from the darkness of winter to the light of summer is a living metaphor. Even as we yearn for the sun’s light for our bodies, we crave God’s light for our spirits. In Matthew 4:16, Jesus quoted the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. The book of Isaiah contains plenty of scathing passages as God called the chosen people from their sinful ways into repentance. But it also includes gems like these words that remind us that our pasts do not hold us captive any more than winter lasts forever.
Jesus himself was the light that dawned with a message of hope. When we are in the midst of regret, loss, or grief, the darkness is midnight black. In the shadows, we don’t see the way out of our circumstances or the solution to life’s challenge. Believing the light will dawn is the essence of hope.
Every time I hear of someone who took his or her own life, I am profoundly saddened. I hate to think of any person so steeped in darkness that the person cannot even imagine that light will dawn. Jesus came to deliver us from the darkness, not to beat us over the head with every wrong thing we have every done or every feeling of inadequacy.
Light liberates! Light points to a new day, a new season, a new opportunity, a new possibility.
Perhaps the month that brings us the longest day of light is also a fitting time to take stock of where we see the light of God breaking into our lives and how we can help break the light of God into the lives of people who sit in darkness.