Sunday, 27 January 2013

Endless Renovation

By the time I staggered out of bed, the sun had risen. The reluctance I’d felt toward the day while lying in my darkened bedroom magically dissipated in the bright sunshine. I was struck by the profound effects of light. 

Light is on my mind because of our ongoing house renovation. When the main electrical work was complete, I noticed pretty new patterns of light and shadow and more comfy corners that were bright enough for reading or doing crossword puzzles.
We’ve added recessed lighting in kitchen and living room, as well as a vanity light fixture above the bathroom mirror. I was appreciating our new toys, dimmer switches and all, until I noticed something I should have foreseen.
The better the light, the better one can see… EVERYTHING! 

My “vanity” light, for instance, shows me all the reasons I have for humility. Looking at myself in the bathroom mirror I can clearly see thinning hair, drooping jowls, deep wrinkles, dark blotches, rogue whiskers, a sagging neck … okay, somebody stop me.
The new fixture also reveals the grubbiness of the tile grouting and the permanent stains on our aged bathtub.
Under brighter living room ceiling lights, every table and lamp displays a skim coat of dust, even five minutes after I clean. Newly visible are all the scuffs and chips on painted trim work. The kitchen pot-lights expose a layer of grime on the stove’s dials, the spice shelf, etc. 
Mercy! Hit the dimmers! 

The mixed blessings of brighter lighting made me think. As my blog title shows, I try to focus on the sparkling aspects of life – the beauty, compassion, humour and wisdom in every day. It’s joyous to know that Jesus was called the Light of the World, and that in God’s loving light, every human being appears as a wondrous and cherished creation. 
However, the new lights also remind me of a less enticing part of spiritual illumination. God’s Spirit reveals dirt just the way my fancy fixtures do. If we’re open to Christ's offer of personal renovation, over time the Spirit gradually turns up the dimmer so that bit by bit we can see our own grubbiness. 

You know what I mean. We think we’re humble until one day we realize that we still resent that person who corrected us in public. We think we’re forgiving until we realize that we scorned someone who failed in a way that we have never failed. We think we’re kind until we realize that we were annoyed when we offered a coffee to a guy on the street and he swore at us. We think we care about the world’s children until we realize we had revenge fantasies about that kid who made our daughter cry.

It is awesome how carefully the Light of the World exposes to us our shameful failures, the cobwebs in our thinking, the parts of our lives we find too comfortable to need changing. S/He never makes us feel unloved or stupid, but gently reveals the real state of affairs: we are wondrous and beloved and yet petty and ego-driven. God’s steady beam shows that we can be freed from self-hatred, judgment, envy, greed, and the rest.The best part is that once we give the go-ahead for the reno, S/He does most of the heavy lifting.

As Simone Weil wrote,  “Love is not consolation. It is light.”