I heard a sermon this week that not only has stayed with me and worked on me, but also inspired me to read Moby Dick.
If you have never read the classic tale, the story focuses on a sea captain (Ahab) who becomes obsessed with killing a whale who cannot be killed. As the story goes on, we continue to see the strength of the whale and how it truly cannot be stopped. But we also see the ensuing madness which takes hold of Ahab as he tries to overcome that which cannot be overcome.
I think this has important implication for how we approach light and dark.
As I am speaking about darkness, I mean it in two ways: One, the darkness we have within ourselves which we try to hide and ignore. And two, the people we consider to be “in darkness.” The people whose sin is so other from ours, we put them in a completely different category from ourselves.
Most of the time as Christians, we believe it is our job to get rid of the darkness. We want to attack it, kill it, obliterate it. So much of the way we approach darkness is with this mind-set.
This has two major problems: One, it is not our job to get rid of the darkness. Two, until the kingdom of God is fully realized, darkness is not going away.
If darkness was going to be completely removed before the return of Christ, it would have been done away with at the cross. But a quick scan off the last 2000 years or the last 2000 minutes of your life will tell you this did not happen.
And the only one who is able to completely rid the world of darkness is Christ. Trying to rid the world of darkness is not only trying to kill the un-killable whale, it is trying to put ourselves in the place of God.
And just like Ahab, when we try to be our own Messiah and try to conquer the beast which cannot be killed, it becomes an obsession which rules our lives and makes us mad.
When we ignore, hide, scream at, judge, shun, mask, or distance ourselves from the darkness, all we do is succeed in spreading more darkness.
But at the cross, we are given the example for how to handle darkness.
We cannot get rid of the darkness, so if we ever hope to do anything about the darkness, this is the first step.
Instead of running from the darkness or trying to dominate the darkness and beat it into submission, if we really want change, we must first learn to embrace the beast.
This is why confession is such a huge concept in the Bible. Confession is simply acknowledging the darkness. It is admitting it is there. It is refusing to stuff it down or hide it. It is embracing the darkness.
It is why lament psalms are the most prevalent psalms in the Bible. It is making music, art, or anything beautiful out of the darkness. It is embracing it and giving it meaning and new shape and purpose. It is the artistic embrace of darkness.
It is why you see Jesus constantly with the wrong people and all the “right” people getting upset with him. It is why you see him walk right into the middle of people’s sin and hurt and never ignoring the human being attached to the sin and hurt.
We don’t have to hide or ignore the fact that darkness is dark. That is the nature of the beast. Our job is to embrace it and try to bring the light into it.
Because light is the brightest right in the middle of the darkness.
So hug your whale today.