In November last year I visited the States, spending time in Boston and Chicago, before heading off to Lansing to see two friends get married. The trip was enjoyable for many reasons. I met old and new friends, ate good food, learned some new sports, drank good whisky, attended a wedding. It was also good to get some me-time – something, as a proclaimed introvert, I regularly seek and savour. My short stays in Boston and Chicago provided the apt setting for me to not only explore two new cities, but also explore one or two things in my own life and walk with God.
On one particular evening, after a day surveying some of Chicago’s finest landmarks and tucking into some of their finest foods, I embarked on a trip to Navy Pier in the hope that I would catch a glimpse of the Chicago skyline at night.
Strolling through the chilled air with a bag around my shoulder (now weighing heavily on me after a considerable amount of walking) and a camera around my neck, I wandered through the bustling and noisy streets of downtown Chicago, heading towards the bright lights of the Pier. I expected a fairly similar atmosphere on the Pier itself; however upon arriving, with the exception of the odd photographer and later a group of either school children or tourists, the atmosphere was instead more hushed and serene. The bustling noise of downtown was now a faint hum in the distance.
As the setting grew calmer, so did my heart as I reflected on the picture that was unfolding before me.
At various points along the Pier I stopped to take photos. Surrounded by the stillness of the night, each building and landmark stood uniquely shaped and lit, together creating a wonderful canvas.
Eventually I reached the end of the Pier. There, after taking yet a few more photos, I sat on a bench and reflected on a verse that was now etched into my mind following the walk:
‘If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you’ (Psalm 139:11-12)
At that moment this verse was so real to me.
My faith means everything to me, but things happen that often seem to be at odds to it – seemingly unanswered prayers, dealing with the same insecurities, struggling with the same weaknesses, lack of breakthroughs, feelings of loneliness and abandonment, impatience. Yet as I soaked in the beautifully lit landscape of the Chicago skyline at night, I couldn’t escape the feeling – the truth, in fact – that at those moments when all around me seems dark, to God it is light. Pure light.
Although the Chicago sky was dark, as it surrounded the vast array of constructed buildings, each brightly lit, the scene was anything but. This was not a scene where the darkness hid the light. No, this was a scene where the light stretched into the darkness and made the night shine like the day.
At those moments of seeming darkness – when doubts persist, hopes are dashed, struggles yearn on, impatience sets in – I must recall the beautifully lit skyline of that Chicago evening. It is a gentle, yet powerfully real, reminder that Jesus is near and so carefully and thoughtfully involved in all areas of my life. Yes, everything I feel and see at those moments may shout against that. But that’s OK, because faith is not based on my emotion or feelings. It’s based on the revealed truth of Jesus, as written in the Bible. In it are stories, pictures, poetry, laments and promises that point to a man who is firmly in touch with the realities of today. He is a man who is faithfully penetrating the seemingly dark situations and struggles of my life with a light so pure and so loving. He is in control, He is near and He is taking me on a journey that is drawing me – and indeed others – nearer to Him.
He is Jesus; making my nights shine like the day.