Think of a teenagers bedroom, complete with balled-up clothes and all kinds of remnants of unfinished activities strewn about. This “mess” is a lot like the state of our souls. The thing is, that bedroom is in total darkness – making it hard to realise there’s even a mess there. We trip over things without knowing what they are, nor do we have any idea how big the mess really is, and we call this life.
In today’s Gospel (John 12: 44-50), Jesus points out that it doesn’t have to be this way. He brings light and a picture so that this room can cleaned to perfection.
I, the light, have come into the worldJesus declared publicly:‘Whoever believes in mebelieves not in mebut in the one who sent me,and whoever sees me,sees the one who sent me.I, the light, have come into the world,so that whoever believes in meneed not stay in the dark any more.If anyone hears my words and does not keep them faithfully,it is not I who shall condemn him,since I have come not to condemn the world,but to save the world.He who rejects me and refuses my words has his judge already:the word itself that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.For what I have spoken does not come from myself;no, what I was to say,what I had to speak,was commanded by the Father who sent me,and I know that his commands mean eternal life.And therefore what the Father has told meis what I speak.’
Shifting gears to reverse
Let’s start by re-packing and unpacking what Jesus is telling us here, doing so in reverse order of each concept:
4) God, the Father, offers eternal life to everyone
3) Through Jesus and His teaching, God has given us the “Directions” to obtain that eternal life – laying out the path to obtain what He’s offering
2) We will be judged by how we measure up against those Directions, our lives held against that template. The picture to match has already been given to us
1) Our choice to believe and our action through learning and amending our ways based on those Directions is how we obtain what God offers, eternal life.
From darkness to light
When we look at the state of our world and the unrest in so many hearts, it’s clear that most haven’t “figured it out”. The search for happiness has led so many down attempts to fulfil that need with things that never satisfy (power, money, status, drugs, popularity, and so on). This is the “darkness” of today that has so many stuck in a fog, still searching for what our hearts really seek.
Jesus tells us that He is the light that has come into the world. He has come to set us free from our slumber in the dark. These Directions are not intended to be limiters on our freedom, keeping us from doing what others are doing – to make us boring and devoid of interests and passions. They are intended to set us free from the very things that enslave us, that prevent us from truly reaching the happiness and joy that we crave, things that can only come from God.
The messy room
Call to mind that messy teenagers room again – clothes and stuff everywhere, shrouded in darkness. Not only do they need to navigate the room without tripping but also need to use the room for some purpose. That’s clearly not going to go well.
There are two things needed to fix this situation – we need light to be able to see what needs tidying and we need some idea of what a “clean room” should look like – a picture to match. That picture helps us to more easily transform the current mess into that “clean state”, and not stop cleaning until it actually matches that picture. When we do this, whatever the purpose that room serves for this particular teenager can now be achieved perfectly – whether that’s for artistic endeavours, reading, studying, creating, whatever.
Cleaning our inner room
We each have our own “inner room” – the “inside” we go when we pray and converse with Jesus. Jesus is both the light that helps us see the true state of our souls (the cleanliness of our inner room), and the picture of what we need to transform our souls into, mirroring Him.
When we do this, we are able to bring our highest value to others using the talents, abilities and interests that He created us with, and in the process receive happiness and joy that never run out. He doesn’t just want 7 billion clones – He wants 7 billion unique individuals living aligned with Gods’ Directions. Those individuals can still bring their unique gifts and interests to the world, and do so with the joy & happiness of achieving the purpose they were created for.
When all are living this alignment and doing so with charity – love for God and love for others – it will truly be Heaven on earth, His Kingdom come.
Achieving that big dream starts with each of us.
Accepting the light
Our first step is to welcome the light – willingness to admit that our inner room is a mess. We’ve made mistakes, we’re prone to making more, and we’re willing to own up to this. This requires vulnerability and a lot of humility. It’s not easy but it’s certainly better than deluding ourselves that all is fine and keeping the lights off!
In so many ways we need to realise that we’ve gotten too comfortable with the lights off, allowing us to remain asleep. Waking up is never fun, but we only truly live when we’re awake. We need His light to do that in full.
Matching the picture
The second step is to have that picture of what our inner room should look like. With the light shining we can see the real state of our souls – and with this picture we can see what our souls should become. The work to go from “before” to “after” can now begin! This is work we do with Him and with His Directions that have been laid out in Scripture. Here is yet another reason why it’s so important to be familiar with Scripture and to have His Directions fresh in our minds – each time we do this is like looking at that picture.
Too often we try to improve ourselves with some other picture – some role model, celebrity or even a loved one. No other picture will allow you to clean your room in a way that leaves you, your individual and unrepeatable self, exactly how it was designed to be. How could it? It’s someone else’s path – and chances are good, they’re still craving the very thing that you are too (and have their own messes they’re either tripping over in the dark or are actively working to clean in His light).
There’s another trap we need to be careful of, “self improvement”. This is like cleaning with no picture at all. How can we know what things should look like or even know when we’re done? What light are we using when we try to take this approach? The idea of “self improvement” leaves us open to other influences that may mislead us – and through us, mislead others. We must be vigilant and keep an unchanging reference point to compare ourselves with.
Our efforts will be far more fruitful in studying the right picture, that of Jesus, as the basis of our comparison rather than obsessing over just studying ourselves.
Keep going until it matches
It is a great thing to want to develop and grow, but we need to have a picture to guide us and a light to see clearly with. There’s only one source for both of these and that is who God has sent, Jesus. Not only did He send him as that light but also with the Directions in hand so that we have an unchanging reference point to work towards.
God calls each of us to be open to that light, to be willing to acknowledge our messes, to admit that these are our messes and therefore our responsibility to clean up, to take these to Him for that cleansing process, and to not stop until our inner room matches His picture. The more light we have, the more we realise there’s a lot of work to do – so let’s get started.