Thursday, July 2, 2015

Two Kinds of Light

I have made many language blunders around the world. Some have been funny and others have  made me wish the floor would open up and swallow me. Like the day I went to the market to buy light bulbs. I was armed with vocabulary and practiced sentences, and was ready for the challenge, I thought.

Marching bravely up to the man behind the rusty shop case, I asked, “May I please have a light bulb?” He looked at me quizzically, and said something under his breath. 

I was used to men in that culture saying things under their breath anyway, so I assumed he was just commenting to himself about the fact my hair was not covered, or that I had looked him straight in the eye. I repeated the question. “May I please have a light,” with gestures this time to help him understand me.

This time, he did not mutter to himself. He leaned past me, craned his neck, and shouted to the men passing on the street, “This foreign woman thinks she can buy a light!!!!!!!” And he laughed till he cried.

I felt a gentle touch on my arm, and turned to find a small, wrinkled face looking up at me with kind eyes. She whispered, “My daughter, you cannot buy light. Only God can make it.”

I was utterly confused. Of course, I know there is a kind of light only God can make. We call it the sun in America.

Seeing my bewilderment, she said, “My daughter, what will you use the light for?” I answered, “My kitchen! I need a light for the ceiling! The old one is finished.”

Understanding dawning on her face, she exclaimed, “Oh! You need a light! A light!” Now she, too, was laughing so hard she cried. Her face disappeared in a mass of wrinkles as I realized what I had really said. 

I had only bothered to learn the word for one kind of light, the Light of God. I had assumed light was light. I had not learned the other word for light, for manmade light. Until now. And I would not forget it either.

Using the new word she gave me, I turned to the man behind the counter (who, incidentally, was now on the phone telling someone I wanted to buy light, and everyone knows only God makes that;) and asked again for a light. This time, for the kind made by man. With a twinkle in his eyes, he reached down and handed me a perfect, beautiful, white light bulb.

I don’t remember if I paid him or not; I just know I left as quickly as possible.

I learned that day that there are two kinds of light. There is the kind man makes, and the kind that God makes. 

And in some languages, there are two separate words for it to distinguish that very important difference.

In recent weeks, I have thought much about those two kinds of light. Darkness has been descending in many places around our country and the world. And if ever light was needed, it is now.

But just any light will not do. Man’s light, in both the physical and the metaphorical sense, eventually dims and dies. Made of perishable materials, it simply cannot last. 

However, there is a Light that shines out of darkness, dispels the darkness, overcomes it, and lasts forever. Created from nothing, made right out of the sheer, vast blackness of not, it forces the darkness to flee, and calls in to being what is. It is indeed, as my market friends knew, Light made by God. This is the light we need today.

God’s Light Turns Our Darkness into Light

You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. -2 Samuel 22:29-30, from the words of King David

The horrible events in Charleston two weeks ago were darkness at its most sinister. But the responses of the family members to the one who took their loved ones’ lives was a brilliant display of the Light that overcomes darkness. 

They knew where lasting Light comes from, and that it comes from redemption through Jesus Christ. They took this Light and shined it so brightly that it has reached the ends of the earth with its unexpected forgiveness, grace and mercy. It will last forever, darkness turned to Light. It is changing hearts even now.

God’s Light is Jesus Christ

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” -John 8:12

Hope came into my life just before her baby was born. I had met her at the pharmacy, and her eyes sparkled in a way that made her face dance with life.

An invitation to afternoon tea came, and I found myself sitting in her small, tiled salon overlooking the old city. As she served steaming tea, she leaned close to me and said conspiratorially, “I know the Light.” She used a prefix which transformed the word for the Light of God into a person. 

I sat to attention, my curiosity piqued. I knew she was taking a risk sharing this with me.

“One night as I lay beside my sister and mother sleeping, I began to suffocate. I felt invisible hands around my neck choking the life out of me. I could see my mother’s concerned face leaning over me talking to me, but I knew I was about to die. 

Suddenly I remembered that a friend had told me one day long ago that Jesus was the name with the most power over darkness. So I said His name in my mind. I could not shout it, because my throat was constricted and I could not speak. But I shouted it in my heart.

Immediately the unseen hands released my throat and I could breathe again. A man dressed in light appeared and said to me, “I am the light of the world. Follow me.”

I have followed Him ever since. I even own a Bible! And I read it every day.”

Hope was bursting forth with life and Light. It could not be hidden. She had met Jesus, the Light of the World.

God’s Light Makes Our Path Clear

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. -Psalm 119:105

One morning we were running in the pre-dawn hours through a neighborhood that usually was bright with street lamps. However, that particular day, an entire street was black. We stopped our pace and began to walk carefully, feeling the road surface with our feet and testing the bumps. 

A friend pulled out her phone and turned on its flashlight. Bright again, we saw that the road was clear and smooth. We could have run in the dark, but we did not know that. We were soon on our way again, the path clearly lit.

Unexpected sorrow and difficulties can make familiar paths in life seem dangerous, shrouded in darkness. We can slow to a walk and stumble our way through places where we once ran. God’s Word is a Light for such times. We need to pull it out everyday and examine our paths through its lens. The path will become clear, and we will run again. 

God’s Light is For Every Race in Every Place

I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth. -Isaiah 49:6b

Man’s light is often delivered to a segregated audience. Selective and fickle, it serves those who agree with its cause. God’s Light is not like that. Again and again in Scripture we are reminded of God’s great compassion for every race, tribe, and tongue. None are left out of His circle of Light. God is not racist. Rather, He created the races for a display of His splendor in all their diverse talent and beauty. 

If the light you are shining seems better suited to one race over another, it is man’s light and not God’s.

God’s Light was Made for the Darkness

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? -Psalm 27:1

The Light we carry as believers, the Light of God, was made precisely for the darkness. The message we speak is a message of hope and light during times of despair and distress. We need not be afraid; rather, there is work to be done as His Light bearers in this present age. 

Every person has a unique and important role to play in displaying God’s Light to the world. We must each examine our own hearts first and be sure we are carrying His Light and not man’s. It is time for the Light bearers to be faithful, and let the Light do what it does naturally: overcome the darkness. 

This is a time for courage, not cowering. For faithfulness, not fear. 

How is God calling you to shine His Light today? I am praying for you that you will have courage  to be faithful, and to let the Light do its work in your circle of influence. This is how we change the world.

Be sure to join the conversation about the Light that overcomes darkness; leave a comment!


There is a Light that shines out of darkness. That is the light we need today. (Click to Tweet)

Take courage, God’s Light was made for the darkness. (Click to Tweet)

If the light you're shining seems better suited to one race over another, it's man’s light not God’s. (Click to Tweet)


  1. Danetta, as many times as I've read 2 Samuel, I never gave David's beautiful words a home in my heart. What comforting words! I have a loved one who's walking through a time of darkness right now and I will pray this verse for her every day. Thank you!

  2. I know your prayers for your loved one are pushing darkness back even as you wait for her to see more clearly. Thank you for reading, and for sharing, Sherry.