Light and Darkness

“The darkness is growing.”

            “That is why we carry the light into the darkness.  So the darkness can recede.”

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *                     

            Charlie gave a wide smile as Mrs. Rasmussen opened the door, although she could probably not see the smile due to his mask.  His eyes were forced to carry the smile instead.

            “Charlie,” she almost yelled.  “What a delight.  Come in.  Come in.”

            He had to hold the door a little wider to make room for the plates in his hands.  “Hope you don’t mind a little home cooking.”

            “I’d rather that than no cooking.”

            He winked at her as he passed, setting the trays down on the counter, just as she liked.  Quickly, he reached into his pouch to retrieve the plastic utensils and napkins.

            “So, how have things been this past week, Mrs. Rasmussen?”

            Her face grew grave.  “I’m not gonna lie to you, Charlie.  It’s been rough.”

            “You not able to sleep much…or is it something else?”

            She practically collapsed in her chair.  “It’s just too much.  All of my friends are dying.  Joan Hudgins last week.  And just today, I received a call from Fran Yancie’s niece.  She just passed away this morning.  And I don’t know…maybe…”

            She trailed off and began to sob.  Charlie moved to kneel down in front of her.

            “Mrs. Rasmussen, I don’t have much in the way of words to offer you.  But I know who can give you comfort right now.  Would it helped if I prayed with you?”

            She didn’t say anything, but nodded like a little girl.

            Because she couldn’t see his smile, he winked at her instead.  “Well, let’s not wait a minute longer.  Let’s take this one to the throne room.”  He closed his eyes.  “Father in heaven, we’re hurting down here.  So much that we don’t know.  So much hurt and pain and…Father, we just need your peace, your love.  God, help my friend, Mrs. Rasmussen.  Let her know you’re there and give her comfort when she feels so down in despair.  Father, put people in her life to lift her up and let her know that she’s not alone.  God, please get us through this time.  We love you Father and we know you’re walking with us through the valley of the shadow.  But please help us get through this all quick like cause sometimes it just seems like it’s too much.  Thank you, Father, for always loving us and thank you, God for being in control, even when we feel like everything is falling down around us.  In Jesus name I pray.  Amen.”

            He stood up and noticed that not only were her tears dried but a peace was covering her eyes as well.

            “Thank you, Charlie.  I always feel better after you’ve shown up.  And, you know what?  God did put people in my life to lift me up and let me know that I’m not all alone.  He put you in my life, didn’t he?”

            “He sure did, Mrs. Rasmussen.  Just as sure as he put you in my life to do the same thing.”

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *                     

            “Is the darkness then greater than the light?”

            “No.  It is simply the absence of light.”

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *                     

            Denise wasn’t driving downtown to protest or to counter protest, but she knew she could be used down there anyway.  She’d heard it had gotten a little crazy in the past few days: police cars set on fire, buildings robbed, protesters had been maced and arrested by the police.  And, even though her friends had attempted to discourage her, she had gone anyway.

            Finding an empty parking spot was easy.  The city was practically deserted, but there were people, citizens, around, picking up the mess left behind.  Denise quickly parked.

            Getting out of her car, she walked up to a lady who had been scrubbing at some graffiti that lined the windows of a business called Narita’s Sweets.  The lady was too busy to look around, so Denise cleared her throat. 

            Surprised, the lady stopped scrubbing and turned to stare blankly.  “Can I help you?”

            Denise smiled behind her mask, which crinkled her eyes.  “Can I help you?  I brought my own cleaning supplies.”

            The lady stared at her for a moment, not knowing what to say.  Slowly, she nodded and turned back to work.

            Denise quickly removed the cleaning supplies from her car and, after setting down the box, grabbed some window cleaner and a cleaning eraser and started to scrub alongside the woman. 

            After a few moments of scrubbing in silence, Denise broke the quiet.  “Is this your business?”

            “No.  It’s my aunt’s.  I’m Esther.  At least she came off better than most.  Her windows weren’t broken.”

            Denise nodded and continued to scrub.  After a few minutes, the graffiti began to lose ground.

            “My name’s Denise Blanchford.  I live on the south side, but I knew there’d be people that needed a little assistance this morning.”

            “Yeah.  Thanks for your help.” 

            Esther popped open a cooler and grabbed out a cold water bottle.  She offered one to Denise as well.  Denise had to struggle to drink around her mask.

            After a moment while they both drank, Esther spoke.  “It’s just crazy.  I’m glad I wasn’t here last night, cause things got a little nuts.  I thought I understood this world, but I guess I don’t.”

            Denise nodded.  “You go to church anywhere, Esther?”

            After a long sip of water, Esther answered.  “Me and Narita go to Saint Stephens a little up north of here.  We’ve been going there since I was young.  Where do you go?”

            “Me?  I go to a little hole in the wall church called The River out in Stubensville.  You ever heard of it?”

            Esther laughed.  “Nope.”

            “Most people haven’t.  The truth is we started up not too long ago.  We were a church plant from First Baptist right here in town.”

            “Hmm.”

            Denise rose to her feet.  “Well, I appreciate the drink, Esther.  But if we’re done here, then I better get moving along.  I came here to work after all.”

            She stopped before she had walked two steps.  “Hey Esther, do you mind if I pray for you real quick?”

            “No,” said Esther.  “I’d like that very much.”

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *                     

            “But, the darkness…it’s so vast!”

            “That’s why we all have to shine in the darkness.  But, you know what?  The darkness, even though it’s vast, has a dirty little secret.”

            “What’s that?”

            “The darkness is afraid of the light.”

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *                     

            Drake rolled his eyes for the fiftieth time that day and threw his phone down on the couch beside him in disgust.  His brother raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say a thing.

            “Well, it doesn’t look like the light’s winning this battle.  All I see on social media is people yelling at each other.  This side’s saying this and that side’s saying that, but they’re just talking past each other.  Nobody’s talking to anyone.  Nobody’s light.  It’s just different shades of darkness.”

            Harald smiled.  “And just what do you expect the light to be doing at this hour, little brother?”

            “Something!  Anything!  This is just stupid!  All around me is darkness.  It’s like there’s no light anywhere at all.”

            “And what about you, little brother?  How’s your light shining?”

            “My light?  Oh, I post things here and there.  Try to clear up some confusion and what not.  Nobody listens anyway.  They just keep saying the same old tired things.  Makes me want to give up social media all together.”

            Harald patted his phone, which lay on the table next to him.  “That sounds like an excellent idea, little brother.  Give up social media.  Go and be the hands and feet, little brother.”

            “Hands and feet?  I don’t even know where to start.”

            Harald smiled again.  “Start small, little brother.  Shine your light a little to your friends.  Shine your light a little to strangers at the store or, and this is really adventurous, but ask God where he wants you to shine and go there.  But start somewhere.  You can’t be the hands and feet if you never leave that couch.”

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”   John 1:5

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