A short story about the nature of God and darkness in every culture, and reconciling living in our own after experiencing culture overseas
In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, And the darkness did not overcome it. ~John 1:4-5
In my village, there is a river. I often find myself sitting on its banks. On these banks, I reflect on the nature of life. By it, I like to sit and observe the people across its currents.
One particular day, I sat in the reeds of the tall grass surrounding the familiar flow of water and watched the lights illuminate the residences of the people on the other shore. I have travelled there a few times, and each time, I have attempted to bring some of that light back into my familiar world, only to watch it dwindle, seemingly due to the insufficiency of my apparent self-given nourishment. It never seems to be enough.
I sighed. I thought of the darkness on my side of the river and I wept. “What makes them so different that they have obtained this light that we don’t have,” I pondered. A thousand times I have come to this bank, only to reach the same disheartening conclusion. I live in a world of darkness – darkness that does not seem to go away, no matter what I do. And darkness that only seems to grow blacker every time I have left it to return.
With my heart heavy, I wiped away the tears from my eyes and I noticed my father sitting several feet away, also apparently reflecting on the nature of our existence. Despite the hours I had spent observing the nature of the illuminated village, I had only just become aware of his presence.
“Father, what do you think of this situation?” I asked, in despair. “How do you stand to live in this darkness when there is so much light on the other side of the bank?”
“Child,” he responded. “There is light on both sides of the river.”
“And,” he said with noted anguish, “there is darkness. For as much light there is on either side, there is an equal battle between the dark realms. While you have grown adept in responding to the darkness of your own world, there is much to learn about the nature of what you see. Do not forget that I am here.”
As I returned to the river over the following months, I began to ask my father to explain more of what he meant. He pointed me to the book he had written for our family before I was born, which tells of the nature of life, and, as he imparted wisdom and understanding, left me to reflect on his words and decide what my conclusion may be.
Through my reflecting, I began to see my village and the people across the river differently. I realized the dichotomy between dark and light no longer existed on either side of its banks. Rather, I saw a gray mixture of groups and individuals with illuminated candles standing tall in the surrounding darkness in both my village and the other. While, I also noted, the qualities of the darkness are different on either side, each desperately depends on the light in a similar way.
I realized that my familiarity with my world and my decision to focus solely on the other side of the river had caused me to see past the light bearers amidst me and become entangled in the darkness between them. In my darkness and my ignorance, I strived to see the lights on the other side of the bank and claim them, thinking that they offered the solution to our darkness when they were necessary to illuminate the darkness in their own place.
With this new knowledge, I persisted in asking my father questions, to which he continually redirected me to his book. I wanted nothing more and nothing less than to figure out what my place in the world of darkness and light might be. I wanted to know the source of these lights, and I wanted to know where I should go with my own light, which I only just realized has been radiating from me.
Finally, I realized what I had always known but had forgotten for so long – my father has given each person their light. And, while each light shines differently depending on the type of darkness it must overcome, the light still exists in each village to illuminate a path to him, the source of pure light and the overcomer of all darkness.
In my village, there is a river. There is light and darkness on both of its banks. I have realized that my role as a daughter of the light-giver is to persist in being illuminated by him and illuminating others with his never-ending source, no matter where I am. I just want to share my father’s light with him and our family, no matter where that may be.
I no longer feel discontent on my side of its currents.
In every corner of the world, there exists a certain quality of darkness. Whether that be poverty of mind, poverty of spirit, poverty of security, poverty of resources, or just a general lack of contentment, I pray God uses me and the people I serve with to be light bearers wherever we go – both in this stage of life and forever going forward.