A Light That Shines in the Darkness

My mom recently asked me if I could recommend any Christian books my little sister could read. Having been reading young adult fiction for the last year, my list of “Christian” books isn’t very large. When I explained that fact to my mother, she teased me for my sudden fascination with “heathen” books and music.

Well, you know what they say. When you turn a sheltered, homeschooled child out on her own…

But seriously. My mom was completely messing with me, but if I’m honest with myself, I do sometimes fear that the stuff I’ve been reading is going to color my world with shades of gray (but not fifty shades of it because I’m not even touching that). So I started looking at the shape my life has taken since I stepped outside of the Christian genre. This may sound strange to say, but I think I’m better for it.

Young adult fiction challenges me in a way that Christian fiction never did because instead of flowing smoothly with the worldview I was raised with, it grates against every fiber of my core. There have been books that I’ve cringed through and others that I’ve set aside because they’re not even worth finishing. They present a series of “what if’s” that Christian fiction had protected me from.

The thing is… I like being challenged. I like questioning my convictions and wondering how they would hold up under fire. I like being stirred to anger or moved to brokenness over the scenarios that present themselves to me. I like when a song comes on the radio and I’m reminded to pray for the state of my world… even if it means I have to change the channel every couple of songs.

And I know there is a fine line between convictions and compromise. I know that when you walk too closely to the edge, there’s always a chance of falling. That’s why I spend my mornings with a Bible on my lap and a pen in my hand. That’s why I still crank up the praise music and dance my heart out in worship. That’s why I cling to the promise that God will hold me up if I will simply trust in Him.

Over the past year, my calling has shifted in so many ways. I stopped working at a mission’s organization because I wanted to write full time and because I realized that my calling was to this nation, not the nations. I decided that I’m writing YA fiction with an underlying theme of grace rather than overtly Christian fiction.

Somewhere in the course of the past year, I realized that I don’t want to be a light that shines amidst all the other candles; I want to be the one who stands alone in the dark.

And I know that suggests that I’m going to spend a large portion of my time feeling very, very lonely, but I’ll keep shining—keep calling others forth—hoping that I will one day leave a trail of bright, flickering flames where there was once nothing but darkness.

Into the Darkness

A Voice calls us out,

beyond the well-lit path

into the darkness.

We follow, trembling,

or trembling stay behind.

But whether we heed the call and launch into the dim unknown

or cling to the familiar,

we are changed.

~Penelope Stokes

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It’s been a few years since I first read these words, and I’ve reread them several times since. But they’ve never impacted me quite as deeply as they do now. This time they are more than an inspiring little poem. This time they are the Voice that calls me out. And, yes, I’m trembling.

There’s something soothing in the well-lit path, even though I may not like where the path is leading. At least I can see what’s coming. At least I feel some semblance of control. I can’t say that about the uncertainty of the darkness.

But here the Voice calls me, telling me that I don’t belong on the well-lit path anymore. Telling me it’s time to blaze a new trail. And here I stand, trembling – unsure as to whether I should really launch into the dim unknown or cling to the familiar. But I am certain of one thing: no matter what my choice may be, change is coming.

So I stand here and wonder what awaits me in the darkness. I say that I’m waiting for clear direction. I claim that I’m being wise. But am I? Or am I just so lacking in faith that I won’t take that first step even when I know that I know that God’s calling me? And I wonder if this is really the time to “be wise” or the time to step out of the boat and start walking on water.

Here I am, trembling, praying, and waiting for the courage to take the first step.