Last month I took my boys camping. It was a guys only adventure – just me and three bright-eyed, playful, and sometimes mischievous little balls of energy. My wife, Joelle, and I always have disagreements over what to pack when planning a trip. I take the minimalist approach where less is more and she wants to be prepared and plan for every conceivable contingency. Generally she wins and we end up (in my humble opinion) way over-packing. Well, this time it was my turn to shine. She would not be joining us and so I could show her what efficient camping really looked like.
The boys and I arrived at our campsite and everything was perfect. We had beautiful weather, a secluded site, and an awesome lake for fishing – but then I started to unpack and realized that there might be a problem. As they tore off into the woods to explore their playground for the next couple of days one of the boys tripped and fell flat with a thud. Ouch, that looked like it hurt, I thought. Then it occurred to me that I had forgotten to bring any sort of first-aid kit. What if he’s bleeding, how would I clean him up, and what would make a good bandage – a sock and some duct tape maybe? Oh, good . . . no blood, we dodged a bullet there . . . if I can just keep these guys from running, jumping, swinging sticks, climbing trees, and playing with fire we should be fine, right? Not more than 5 minutes later I was lamenting the fact that I also forgot pillows. The boys can sleep anywhere on anything, but I suddenly saw a restless night ahead of me. By the time evening rolled around I had discovered one boy had no extra pants, and my plan to save room by packing minimal snacks quickly backfired to the whines of, “I’m hungry!” Despite my shortcomings we survived and I learned an important lesson. While I am still not ready to pack things like the kitchen-aid mixer (I’m exaggerating), Joelle’s attention to detail balances my, “Oh, it’ll be fine” attitude.
One camping item I did not forget was a flashlight. After we had enjoyed an afternoon of boating, building fires, roasting hot dogs, and making s’mores I found myself sitting at the campfire alone and sort of exhausted. The kids rested quietly in our tent beneath that small hanging flashlight as it shone just brightly enough to scare away bears, lions, big foot, or anything else that might creep into the tent by way of a small boy’s mind. It was a light I had found in one of those miscellaneous cupboards at home that was just one step above the notorious junk drawer. As I watched the soft glow from outside the tent I wondered how old that flashlight was. How long had it been sitting in the cupboard? When was the last time the batteries were replaced? And what kind of batteries were they? Lithium ion maybe? Or more likely dollar store brand? Was that an LED bulb or incandescent? Basically, I began to wonder how long that thing was going to shine. Was it hours? Minutes? Seconds? Why don’t flashlights have a timer or something to count down exactly how much light is left in them? How unpredictable that situation was. The light could have literally gone dark at any second or it may have lasted our entire trip, there was no way for me to know. I finally decided to enjoy the light and use it while it was present. I knew my time with the light was limited so I wanted to make the best possible use of it while I had the chance.
Our lives are like that flashlight on my camping trip. We shine moment to moment with no real control over when the brightness will begin to flicker, fade, or just cease altogether. We have no way to know if we are blessed with energizer bunny batteries or the ones from the discount bin. We all have a limited time to walk our chosen path. For some it may be short and for others it may be long but what we do while we are here echoes for all of eternity.
When he walked on the earth, Jesus was the true light that cut sharply through the darkness of this world illuminating the path to salvation for all who would receive him. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is quoted as saying, “walk while you have the light . . . while you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons [and daughters] of the light” (John 12:35-36). Earlier he had described himself as the “Light of the world” (8:12) and he also said that, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (9:5). Jesus said these things to the crowds because he knew that the time to accept him was limited. He was offering an invitation to anyone who would believe in him to step out of spiritual darkness and into the light of his love (John 14:46). But his point was clear – the chance to respond to him would come to an end.
I AM the Light of the world
By God’s grace the invitation to accept Jesus did not end at his crucifixion, but by the spreading of the good news about his resurrection it was made available to all people (John 3:16). To all people, that is, as long as it is light. In other words we all have the opportunity to walk in the light of Jesus while we are alive – while we can still make a decision for him. So walk while you still have the light. Choose to accept the one who died to give you life. All that is asked of you is to believe. There is nothing you can do that will make you good enough to stand before a holy God – but by faith in Jesus his perfect life becomes your life as he took the punishment that you deserved. The sober truth is that the darkness of death is coming for all of us and we do not know when or where or how. Like my flashlight, your light will burn out. So walk while you still have the light. Walk, or run rather, straight to Jesus Christ and stand in his unfailing, never-fading, indescribable, and glorious light.