Josh and I first met Levi in our freshman year of college. All we really knew of him was that he slept through all of the classes, and yet somehow managed to get the highest grade when the tests came around. Levi and his wife, Christy, were married eight months after Josh and I, and we have traveled the path from college-age students to young marrieds to ministry leaders with them. They have been a constant source of encouragement and counsel for us, as well as life-long friends regardless of distance. I am so very pleased to have him sharing here today, and you should wish him a happy birthday because his is Saturday — but we all know the world is going to end that day so you can’t do it then.
Deep in the wooded foothills of the Rocky Mountains a young boy wanders alone following the course of a stream back to its source. As he climbs the ravine this stream has carved over the eons, his imaginations dances along the ridgeline in ages past. He is an explorer in every sense of the word. But buried deep in this boy’s heart is the mark of his origins, a piece of his homeland lies hidden amidst all the dreams conjured by the histories of mankind. He springs lightly as the brook, from rock to rock, ‘round ancient trees and boulders, his face brilliant in the deep, dark of the forest. Why does he exult among the trees? What is it about nature that fills him with wonder and excitement?
As he wends his way to the spring, a gleam of light catches his eye. If you have ever been deep in the forest you may know the way a clearing in the trees can shine with a light from another world. He abandons his quest to find the source of the stream, enchanted by the glow of the clearing just a little ways off. Against the steep incline of the side of the gully, two large boulders form the mouth of a cave, and spread before the mouth of this cave lays a large swath of moss dotted with the most delicate white wildflowers. As the boy stands, transfixed by the perfect scene illuminated before him, the steady hum of his vivid imagination quiets as the peculiar quality of this place steals over him. He does not need to imagine himself a brave explorer of the past or as a mighty warrior glorious in victory. He simply sees the brilliant colors, feels the wild air of the forest around him, smells the earthy aroma of the moss, trees and rocks – he simply is. He feels wonder as well as fear – tranquil exhilaration.
This scene is enchanting, but what of the cave? The brilliant light of the verdant clearing penetrates mere inches into the gloom of the cavern. What is it in the heart of a boy who dares not enter the dark, yet cannot leave the cave unexplored? His pulse quickens as he stands hesitating, irresolute. His mouth is dry, palms clammy; the hair on the back of his neck stands on end. Ultimately the pang in his heart yearns for the unknown, for the mystery; and against his natural alarm and revulsion he steps forward and into the dark.
And now we turn the page (to absolutely steal from an author I heard speak recently)…
I recently attended a writer’s conference. There was a central theme of writing because we must write, but a secondary theme arose for me. It would be very difficult for me to explain in detail what this other theme was in the space of this post, or even with many more words. The central melody may be memorable from your favorite song, yet there may be another theme that speaks to you from hints and whispers of harmony or rhythm. This is often too ethereal to put to words, yet too moving to ignore.
Here is my best attempt…
Joy is incomprehensible without suffering, beauty only stands as remarkable against the backdrop of the dreary, and light reveals what darkness hides. I am not advocating some sort of dualism, far from it. The concept that began to take form for me was a contrast of a view that sought to remove pain and darkness in order to represent beauty versus a concept that faces darkness with light; revealing the ugliness that darkness may hide, but giving hope for redemption.
“Light and dark must both make an appearance in our art” – Gina Ochsner
This concept was being applied to the art of writing, but it was easily relatable to all forms of art. However, as I thought more about it this concept came to bear on many other areas of life. In counseling it is often the great majority of the work to be done to simply look at the source of the pain – to shine a light on the ugliness of trauma and suffering. People do not relate well with one another when they hide their flaws and fake tranquility, and yet peace and tranquility are the beautiful hope of redemption. There is great beauty in being able to look at what life truly holds and trust God. Trust that not only does He see the truth, but He also enters into our pain with us while remaining transcendent and able to be our ever-present salvation.
How about you? (to steal from yet another writer I adore),
Where do you see God’s light in the dark places?
Levi Martin is an M.Div. student at Multnomah University in Portland, OR, where he and his wife of almost ten years both work. Levi is an amateur songwriter, poet and theologian now working on his first novel. This is his first foray into any form of writing more public than school papers.