I recently had a very large tattoo forever imprinted in my skin. A few people have asked what it means. It’s a lengthy story, five years in the making, but it begins here:
5 years and some odd months ago I visited a small village full of beautiful, hurting children. Wary of us at first, they slowly warmed to us as we returned each day. We saw their pain, how they were abused, neglected and hungry. We shared hope with them and we saw it light their eyes. I didn’t know the day we drove away with dusk settling that it would be our last day seeing them, as they shouted our names and chased our truck as far as their small legs would carry them we were saying “goodbye” and never knew it. The chief’s greed and subsequent threats led to our being forbidden to return; we would never be able to speak those words of hope to them again.
I was angry.
And my God spoke to me as my tears dropped in the red dirt. He reminded me he loved them more than I ever could. He reminded me that he brought me there and he was taking me away, he reminded me that my task now was to remember and pray.
I still cry, and plead. And I remember, my God is good, he is just, he is loving and I can trust him.
But sometimes I despair, on days when the darkness is heavy and threatens to crush me, when I remember their faces and the many more like them. When I think about this world we call home, I can feel the darkness close in around me.
This place where countries are in endless war. Where children are victims of unspeakable violence. Where infants are killed in what should be the security of the womb. Where people are murdered for the color of their skin or the borders of their homes. Where people are sold as chattel.
This world full of people whose history is bloodstained by injustice, corruption, hatred and infamy.
This world has blood in its soil and tears in its seas. We are so broken. And it feels so dark.
But there is a light, a flicker enough to guide us, that we could walk without stumbling.
Moths are drawn to light. It is theorized that they navigate by celestial light, specifically the moon. By keeping the moon always in the horizon they are able to navigate the darkness with ease. But artificial light often confuses them, they will stumble upon our porch lights and get stuck there disoriented by the “impostor moon”.
I am a moth.
I take my eyes off the one true light that guides me, I get distracted by putting my hope in “impostor lights” and I lose my way. I stumble. But when I get trapped in the chaos and terror of another hope deferred, my God gently takes me in his hands and guides me back to him, back to letting him light my way.
And hope in God does not disappoint. He quenches the thirst of the weariest, and when I hope in him I am like a tree planted by a river of living water, firmly rooted in his promises. I can stand in the darkness because he alone is my light and he will never be extinguished.
If I fix my eyes on him I can wait for spring. When the death and darkness of winter will be dispelled and things will bloom and live and thrive again washed in the light of his glory.
While I wait I can trust him by the faint light of his promises. I can trust he remembers all those small faces that I see in my dreams. I can trust he sees the injustices. I know he sees it, he felt it, as his blood gushed from his side and stained Golgotha. And he answered it by conquering death and rising triumphantly. He answered by saying “I am the way, the truth and the life”; and he promises to return with justice, to wipe the tears of his people with hands that are scarred by our sins. I can wait for the return of my savior, when he will set things right. When there will be no need for sun or moon because his light will be brighter and will shine day and night. I can wait for the darkness to be dispelled.
So I’ll remember with ink etched in my skin. I will remember, though it seems dark, he is the light and he shines without ceasing.
Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. (Frederick Buechner)
Take courage, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)