The doorbell rang about five times at two-o-clock in the morning. My mind woke up, but my eyes remained closed. Who could possibly be at the door at this hour? Supposing that it could be important, my wife and I got up to check. Instead of going to the front door, we went to the upstairs room window that has a view of the front street. In the darkness, I could see a tall, thin person walking up to my front door. Again, a series of door bell rings. Then, he runs across the street to hide behind a car. Curiously, I watched as he ducked down behind the car with two other figures.
Clearly, this was a prank, or possibly something worse. Going back to my room, I picked up the phone to call the local police station. It didn’t feel like a 911 event, but I still wanted the police to scare away the pranksters. After all, who rings doorbells at 2 AM?
As I was looking up the phone number, my wife shouted that two of them were moving to the backyard. Suddenly, the “something worse” scenario was building and my fingers quickly hit 9-1-1. Was this a precursor to a robbery? As my wife turned on the house lights, I spoke with the 911 operator. Five minutes later a police car rolls by, but the would be intruders have already fled in the presence of the lights.
Returning to sleep is challenging. My mind wanders through “what if” scenarios and “why me” questions. Gradually, I consider how the figures fled once the lights were turned on. The gospel of John begins by describing Jesus as the light (John 1:5) saying, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
This past weekend, I was speaking to a group of college students about sin and suffering. The common understanding of suffering is that by placing our needs first, we create suffering. In our selfishness, we would rather hoard our wealth instead of using it to help others in need. We promote ourselves at the expense of putting others down. We emphasize our correctness while disenfranchising those we believe are wrong. If we were sponges, we would suck up all the water at the cost of drying up the sponges around us, creating suffering. The students nodded in agreement. In many ways, we create our own darkness.
Yet, when Jesus approached a blind man (John 9), he did not attribute the man’s condition to sin. In this case, he tell us that the man’s suffering was to display God’s work. There is a second answer to the suffering, that is God will be displayed in it. At this point in the man’s life, the darkness was meant to show the brilliance of the coming light.
Light is needed everywhere in our lives today. It keeps me from walking into walls at night. It makes me visible to to cars while I commute on my bike. And, it scares away evil. As I go back to sleep, I think about the power of light over darkness, its protective nature, and its ability to transform how I live. But mostly, I thank God for light at 2 AM.