God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:4
Working with college students, I’m surrounded by a lot of stress around this time of the semester. As I absorb their stress, my thinking gets less predictable and a great deal odder. This post includes quotations from scripture, Yoda, and Bill and Ted. I’ve been reading from Revelation, so here I talk about angels and swords. I refrain from referring to the swords as light sabers (although I did think about it). I intend this as allegory rather than theology.
I don’t know what I believe about angels, and it’s only during this past year that I’ve even begun to think about spiritual warfare. For many of us, this is the only time of year when we think about angels. I don’t know whether to ask you to take this as just a bit of light-hearted stress-induced whimsy or to take it very, very seriously. Probably a little of both.
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One of my favorite things in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is the way they go around saying, “Be excellent to each other.” These two teenagers who seem so dumb manage to convey great wisdom. I suppose I could just stop this post and say, “Go be excellent to each other.” That might be enough.
When we are in the middle of a hurting marriage, it is hard to be excellent to each other. It can be hard to step back enough to be able to see what is happening. Instead of seeing the relationship problems with the fresh eyes of two teenagers who see from the perspective of a telephone booth time machine, we see through the lenses of our own pain and frustration.
It’s just as hard to see how our own marriage problems are part of anything other than just us. He did this. I did that. He introduced one sin. I introduced another. We are two sinners, and we just need to work it out between the two of us. It has nothing to do within any other problems in the world.
Consider, though, that maybe there is more. The problems experienced by two spouses in their marriage might be part of a bigger battle than the two people can see when they’re in the middle of it.
As I’ve been thinking about hurting marriages, I’ve been seeing light and darkness. In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda says, “Luminous beings are we.” I love that image. I picture us as beings who are luminous because the light of Christ shines from us.
Deep inside each Christian spouse is light. Throughout the seasons of life and marriage, there are times when the light is harder to see. There are times when it shines so brightly.
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12
When two people shining with the light of God are joined, their light is magnified. Two, separately, shine. Two, together, shine brilliantly enough to illuminate the shadows.
Forces of Darkness
We may be luminous beings, but there are also forces of darkness. (And no, as tempting as it is, I’m not going to start referring to this as the dark side of the force. Well, I’ll try not to, anyway.) These forces of darkness want to obscure the light and keep the two from truly being one brilliant light.
Can you picture how this might look? Three images have come to my mind. The spouses are not the main characters here. The main characters are Light and Dark, angels and the serpent. This is about spiritual warfare on marriage. It may appear that there is a good spouse and bad spouse in these scenarios, but Christ’s light shines within each of us. When we join in one-flesh marriage with another light of Christ, the light can burn so brightly that the marriage threatens the darkness. So the darkness fights the light, however it can.
Christ’s light shines from within both spouses. But one spouse is covered in sin and darkness that mute the light. Perhaps the spouse is using pornography, withholding his or her true heart from the other, or hiding a secret. The darkness presses in against this spouse, although the light from within tries to push back.
The darkness is a one-way looking glass between spouses. The spouse on one side can look through the glass and see the light shining from the spouse on the other side. Perhaps the wife sees her husband as a child of God, full of light. From the other side, though, he sees only darkness. He looks toward her but sees only the serpent reflected in the glass. He struggles with depression. Or maybe he has such darkness in his past that it is all he knows how to see. The darkness on his side of the glass keeps her light from shining through. The glass keeps her from using her light to dispel his darkness.
A couple stands together, completely shrouded in a cloud of darkness. Both are weighed down by their sin. She looks at him through darkness and sees a serpent. She withholds sexual and emotional intimacy from him. He becomes bitter. He looks at her and sees only the darkness around her. He treats her as the enemy. His treatment verifies that he is what she thinks she sees. The darkness around one feeds into the darkness around the other. They become a black hole of darkness, pulling more shadow into themselves with every step.
Battling the Shadows
Now, imagine how healing might look in these scenarios. We cannot pull ourselves out of the shadow and into the light; only reliance on God can do that. Even when we aid each other in the battle, it is Christ’s light that ultimately shines through. The light battles against the darkness, but we do not carry enough light within us to battle alone and win. We call on God, who sends angels to aid us.
The wife reaches her hand through the layers of shadow to grab on to the hand of her husband. She cannot battle the darkness for him, but she can hang on with all she is and has. She calls on God to hold her steady while she just hangs on. As the husband tries to push his light through the darkness, he asks the angels to make him stronger and stronger. He keeps pushing, and with their help, the darkness dissipates. He looks down and sees his wife’s hand, still clinging to his.
A husband looks through the glass to see his wife, curled up on the floor with the darkness swirling around her. He can’t reach her through the glass–but God’s angels can. They surround the woman on the floor, providing a circle of protection against the shadows. The darkness is a vortex of rage and anger trying to attack her; the angels hold steady. As the darkness around her begins to clear, she lifts her head, for the first time in years. She looks toward the glass, and instead of seeing the dark serpent, this time she glimpses a light shining through the other side of the glass. Now that she sees the light, she wants to touch it. She stands up, picks up her own sword, and crashes through the glass. She reaches her hand through to find her husband’s. The light explodes from their clasped hands.
The darkness is so thick. Neither spouse senses any light at all, within themselves or each other. But someone—maybe one of them, or maybe someone else—knows that light exists. The angels are called in and battle the dark. They cut through the shadows, and little by little, bits of muted light begin to shine through. And the two beings inside the shadows begin to shine with luminosity. As they see their own light, they decide that they want even more. They look toward each other and see that there, too, is light. The two lights begin to merge into one as they battle the rest of the shadows together.
Be Excellent and Live in the Light
In Christian marriage, we each need to live every day in the light, to fight the shadows around us and be loving and excellent to our spouses. When we look toward our spouses, we need to look for the light instead of seeing the serpent. We need to look into Darth Vader’s mask and see the eyes of Anakin Skywalker.
We feel trapped in the shadows of our hurt. We see only the shadows around our husbands but not the light within them. In my marriage, I focused on the shadows. I named them, explained them, packed them tightly around my husband, and blamed them for what I refused to see from my side of the glass. I was so busy critiquing my husband’s shadows that I forgot to let my own light shine. I began to absorb the other darkness around me. I forgot to live in the light. Once I stopped worrying about his shadows and started trying to battle my own, my light began to glow. As I was able to shine, his shadows began to fade away.
As I worked to be kinder and more loving toward my husband, my light helped him be better able to see and fight off the rest of the shadows around him. Bill and Ted knew what they were talking about. As I began to be excellent to my husband, I became more luminous.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
Be luminous to each other . . .
In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:4-5
. . . so that the darkness may be dispelled.
I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. Ephesians 1:18