A student came to my office recently, ready to expose a dark and paralyzing experience from her past. Courage at its best.
Holding a secret for 10 years, “Kari” became familiar friends with shame, guilt and fear. She also learned to tolerate lower back pain. At 13, she was the victim of sexual assault at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. In that moment, she froze. She blamed herself for the abuse, and the enemy had enthusiastically reinforced that destructive narrative.
As we processed her story and exposed the lies, Kari was able to see things in a new light, grieve for herself, invite Jesus into that traumatic moment and receive all that was taken. The light shone that day. Her joy has returned, her love for Jesus is alive, and her back pain is gone. She has been empowered.
True empowerment for Kari existed on the other side of exposure. The same is often true for us.
“In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5, NIV).
Exposure is scary, isn’t it? It’s unnerving and disorienting. It requires extreme vulnerability. It calls for courage. As leaders, to be empowered to penetrate the darkness around us, we must first let Christ do his work in us—continually.
Imagine Christ’s encounters with the woman at the well, the rich young ruler, His disciples or the Pharisees. All were deeply personal, exposing and challenging. Are we courageous enough to let His light shine in our dark places and then take action?
In my field, we’re taught that the greatest healing intervention we bring to others is ourselves. The reality is that we cannot give what we do not have. Among the many strategies in our “ministerial toolboxes,” we are the change agents. It’s our presence, our “being with” and the human connection that make the difference.
How are we showing up for others who are in darkness? Or are we in darkness ourselves? Are we blind? Or do we see? The late theologian Howard Hendricks simplified it this way: “You teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are.”
When we shine the light, we expose the enemy, whose primary purpose is to disempower us. We must not fear exposure, but run toward it with everything we’ve got. It’s the light of truth that overcomes the darkness, penetrates the lies, challenges our fears and heals our brokenness. It calls out the old story and rewrites a new story where we can shine brightly—no longer as victims, but as victors!
We don’t all have the same story, but all humans carry sin, pain and fear. Whether our struggles are the result of what we’ve done, what we didn’t receive or what has been done to us, may we be empowered to expose the darkness. It will require vulnerability, some fact-checking and support, but there is good news. Christ’s light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Shine the Light: Next Steps
- Name your shame. Name it, and reach out to friends.
- Look back. Dig up roots; don’t be distracted by fruit.
- Identify the lies that bind you. Replace false beliefs with truth.
- Push through fear. Take massive action.
- Lean into wholeness. Seek therapy, spiritual direction and mentoring.
- May we have COURAGE to do this essential, personal work.
- May we receive REVELATION to see what we cannot see.
- May we experience DEEP HEALING to truly change the world.
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