Navigating the Darkness

A pitch-black street familiar to me is illuminated by streetlights and the warm glow of headlights from early-riser commuters. I live alongside one of the major highways that serves as a corridor to three of the five boroughs of New York City. I find myself comforted on early mornings like this when I can sit, think, and listen to the lull of driving cars before the highway becomes a cacophony of honks and construction drilling. I do like the sound of cars and trucks, and as an urbanite I feel at home when I am certain there is a bustle around me.

On early January mornings, I walk in the morning dark. This month is marked by  late sunrises because of the annual cycle of light and darkness that the northern half of God’s creation goes through. The first two weeks of January host the latest sunrises, with my home state seeing one as late as 7:55 a.m. My morning walks and reflections on what our Lord has to say about darkness are plentiful. One of the verses we often hear in our times of worship during Christmas and Epiphany comes from John 1:4–5: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This verse is powerful because it is not only true but also serves as a guide for how we approach darkness in our own lives and in the lives of the young people in our care.

Who’s in the Dark?

Part of my vocation in this world is to help people who are in the dark. As fellow educators, you may also find joy in helping bring clarity to those who have misunderstandings. Some of us even have the privilege of watching the truth come to light as those we teach learn information for the first time. How do we guide our young people who are in the dark about the things of God? How can our spiritual life experience more of Christ’s light? And how can we help our students to know these things as well?

Epiphany is a season of the Church Year marked by us seeing who Jesus is as He reveals Himself to us in Scripture. He does this in His Baptism and in the signs and wonders He shows us in His ministry on earth, as well as in His death and resurrection.

Jesus reveals Himself in the Scriptures through stories and by sharing life together with those He encounters. As we seek out ways to be more Christlike, we may want to follow Jesus’ example of sharing life with our students. This is especially true during this pandemic when, because of altered schedules and unclear futures, our students can feel as though they are walking in darkness. Young people in our care may often feel that they are in the dark about what’s next. They wait for national news to reveal when things can be closer to “normal.”

Share God’s Light with Students

For those of us who serve by helping to educate young people in the ways of God, now is the time to reveal how to stay connected to Him. In a time where we are in darkness both figuratively and literally, we remember that Christ is the light who extinguishes darkness. We remember the message proclaimed to us: “that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Reveal to your students the parts of YOURSELF that are connected to God. Use these times not only to transmit information and concentrate on holding ourselves to the same standards in different times but also to show students how to be spiritually strong. Show them where to draw light from—God’s Word. These are eternal things that outlast the materials we are temporarily beholden to in curriculum.

Time is precious, and teaching time is a rare gem. Most educators do not have the luxury of going too far “off track,” as they must stick with the administration’s lessons and directives borne from the desire for students to excel. Consider using brief times between Zoom meetings, or mindful minutes before or after class or lunch, to focus students on God’s light and to reveal to them His activity in your life in bringing light to dark areas. May God give us the opportunity to show who He is, and may we have the courage and insight to use those opportunities as they come to His glory. Use the time wisely!

To learn how you can bring the light of Christ into everyday conversations, order Faith That Engages the Culture below. 

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Picture of Deaconess Janine Bolling
Janine Bolling is a Brooklyn-born-and-reared Millennial who is passionate about practical education and connecting people with resources. She works full-time as an admissions recruiter for SUNY, part-time as an adjunct professor of theology at Concordia College New York, and part-time as deaconess at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Brooklyn. The rest of her time is spent in EdD studies at Concordia University Wisconsin in the Leadership in Innovation and Continuous Improvement Program and with family and friends. Janine is a foodie and WILL fight you about why New York pizza is better than all other pizzas.

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