Anthony DeMello, a Jesuit priest, used to talk often about people’s desire to change, but their insistence they try and change through steps and techniques. He always pushed back:
“You only change what you understand. What you do not understand and are not aware of, you repress. You don't change. But when you understand it, it changes.”I speak to struggling couples who ask me how to fix things. Or men struggling with anger and condemnation. Or women who’re bitter and unforgiving. Or young people feeling low and anxious. And I am most helpful not so much when I give a number of steps, but when I help people see. No small task coming from me, a frustratingly chronic blind dude.
“. . .God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.” -Genesis 1:3-4
God is speaking. These are depicted as the first words. And they’re words about light. But light for what? Does God need to clap twice and get the lamp on before God starts sculpting planets?
God’s first declaration is to light up what’s just been described for us as a formless, ruinous void enveloped in darkness. And the reason, in my opinion, gives me peace: God is a gracious, unthreatened judge who doesn’t condemn. God is light and love, and simply calls things as they are.
Because how are things ever supposed to get better when you go on trying to make with the lights out, the mess unattended to?
Genesis begins with tohu wa bohu illuminated, not hidden. Acknowledged, not swept under the rug for the sake of reputation or even holiness. Genesis begins with creation. With recreation. And, in a strange but necessary way, with confession. All creation being drawn into the honesty of what is before there's any preoccupation with whatever else there could be.
In a few chapters, Adam and Eve will forget all this and start veiling shame again. But that’s the cycle you and I are invited into anyway: We bring our mess to God. God shines light on it so it can be seen without pretense or shadow. And then change begins. Because in the light there’s nothing to hide, and only in true awareness can things be as they should be. And if we forget the order of God’s universe and the invitation of light, we will try and hide what we regret. We return to the shadows, trying to change ourselves and everything else in an anxious, visionless delusion. Eventually, we get tired of hiding and pretending and the fruitlessness of trying to adapt everything to our delusions, and come quivering into the light again.
May we enjoy the piercing, painful, humbling bright light of God’s love. And may we offer others the blessed safety of being really known by us, and loved anyway.
“Arise, My people! Let your light shine for all the nations to see! For the glory of the Lord is streaming from you. All nations will come to your light” -Isaiah 60:1-3