The Lawless One
When I was a little boy, I was terrified by the things that lived in my closet and the basement. Now, mind you, I knew that there was really nothing to be afraid of...particularly when the lights were on or the when the light of day was there for protection. When the lights went off at bedtime, though, my fears would rise. Something was there. Something was lurking. Something was waiting, its intent malicious and its designs on me. The protective force? Light. I used to negotiate with my parents on just how far open the door to my room had to remain. Just a hand's breadth was enough to lay a line of light across the floor. I was an adherent that light was the best protection and ward against things that prefer shadows. With that little boundary, I could sleep.
Still, from time to time I would wake in the night: my little boy's body would freeze as my wide eyes would search the grey half-light in the room. The spear of light from the hallway would be gone, as my parents had gone to bed. What little light there was came from the stars, the moon, the street lamp down the way. My ears would strain, listening for the fabled squeak of a hinge, the creak of a floorboard. Those were not good times. Eventually sleep would come, as would the morning, but then evening would advance and the cycle would repeat.
We all know those fears and trepidations, whether they are left over from childhood or generated by the traumas of adult life. We know what dread tastes like, how fear chills us and how close those feelings lie nar to us from time to time.
Why should they not also invade our walk with God? The worry, the fear we feel in the face of signs and portents. The dread we experience when oracles like the ones Isaiah intones this morning, all of that provokes in me that little boy's worry about the monsters in the closet, under the bed, in the dark corners of the attic or the basement. What makes them even more terrifying is that as an adult, I know that most of Isaiah's nightmares are not imaginary. His visions tether deeply into reality. We aren't talking about shadows and suggestions of things to fear...we know just how terrible invading armies are. We know the depredations of tyrants. We see with our own eyes and hear with our ears the things in this world that not only threaten to overwhelm us, they do overwhelm us.
The consolation of the Psalmist helps a little. God is there for us, to lift us up and preserve us. The guidance of Paul is there for us...even when the anti-Christ is present, to remind us that we are beloved of God and that in community we can face and overcome any injustice, and repression. Even Isaiah, in the depths of his scary stories, intersperses the fear-talk with lines of hope. The Lord of hosts is with us, will lift us up. The wicked will suffer. The evil will perish. It will happen.
That, ultimately, was what rescued the little boy I was from the terrors of the dark. I don't remember when it happened, but one night I sat up, prayed to God for protection and just sat with the shadows. It took time, faith and prayer; but it did happen. One night, there was no need for light from another room. I realized that I had the real light of God's love with me. It had been there the whole time....