Living the “Yes” in Dark Times
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.—Isaiah 9:1
Long nights. Short days. In my part of the world, it seems the sun is barely up before it starts to sink. We rise in the dark, do our evening chores in the dark. We live in the country, and our nights are darker than nights in the city—we can see the stars—but even so, the lights of nearby towns and our own house lights are never far. What was it like to live without electricity for substitute light? Primitive peoples must have wondered whether the warm, bright days would ever return.
We moderns endure a different long night, and we too wonder whether bright days will return. In our cities, despair is born of violence and the fear of it. In our small towns, despair is born of boredom and purposelessness. Many young people drink too much, drive too fast, and distract themselves with mindless entertainment and loveless sex. Too many of their parents have jobs they hate or no job at all. Too many parents spend their free time shopping for what they don’t need or engaged in the same mindless distractions as their teenaged children.
From a recent conversation with a twentysomething friend: “We’re supposed to be the spoiled generation. But it got real. Only a few of my friends have full-time jobs that are going anywhere. Those who went to college have lousy credit because they can’t pay back their student loans. I know only one person my age with health insurance. And when we’re old, Social Security and Medicare will be gone.”
These are dark times for many. What do we Christians say in the dark? What is our answer to the despair all around us?
The answer is yes.
All those distractions—drinking, drugs, sex as entertainment, shopping, even pessimism—are ways of saying, “No! I won’t feel the pain. I won’t be bored. I won’t face facts. I won’t accept the life I’m given.”
New life begins with yes.
Consider Mary. Her plans were interrupted. She had to let go of the life she imagined. With her yes to the life she was offered, her eyes were opened to Elizabeth’s need, and she made the long journey over rough terrain to be with her. When we say yes to the life we’ve been given, we become more available to others. When we say yes, we notice what we have, not what we’re missing.
To my twentysomething friend, I want to say, first, give thanks for what you have. You’re fed and clothed and sheltered. You probably have a phone, a computer, maybe even a car. You can read and write. You’re young, agile, and healthy. Wake up to the goodness that accompanies and surrounds you.
Then notice what’s possible. You can learn. You can choose how you eat, how you spend your free time, who your friends are. You can make a difference. Give thanks for the life you’ve been given, and be the person you’d like others to be—the person God calls you to be. Only then will you help create the world as it should be.
Say yes, young man and woman, and then watch your real life unfold.