Sometimes it feels as if life is nothing more than a journey from one crisis to the next. There have definitely been times when this statement has rung true in my extended family. Between financial issues, medical issues, relational struggles, work stress, spiritual dryness, family issues, and so on, the crises had threatened to overwhelm me and made me feel as though I were going under. I tend to be the kind of person that retreats into myself in those times of crises. I want to pull the covers back up over my head. I want to retreat away from the world and from people. I want to hide out in my head until the storm blows over.
Spiritual crises seem to be a common theme among many of the great spiritual teachers that I resonate with as well. I can’t help but think of some of the passages from St. John of the Cross in his masterpiece, The Dark Night of the Soul. I think of writings from St. Francis of Assisi, Thomas Merton, Mother Theresa’s recently released letters, Frederich Buechner, Henri Nouwen, etc. All of these writers seem to have had times in their lives where they stared into the deep pit of despair, doubt, loneliness, isolation, and sheer nothingness, hearing only the echo of their own voice reverberate back as they called out for a sign that someone was there. All of these writers, at some point in their journey, reached a place of crisis. They reached a line in the sand where they had to decide if they were going to continue forward or stop journeying all together.
This is where Nicodemus finds himself in today’s passage. Literally, these are the words that come from Jesus’ mouth. “haute de estin he krisis,” it says. Which means, “this is the judgement.” The word translated “judgment” is the word krisis, from which we get the English word crisis. Nicodemus has come to Jesus in search of answer. The answer he gets, however, leads to a crisis of faith. Jesus, the light, has come into the world. As the light, he has exposed the darkness of the world. He has unmasked the powers that had hidden behind attractive veils and convincing disguises. He has pulled back the curtain on the seemingly powerful wizard and exposed him for the fraud he really is.
The problem is this - people like the wizard. They like to make-believe. They like the darkness. They like to hide and pretend that things really aren’t as bad as everyone is making them out to be. They like to believe that they aren’t really hurting anyone.
Nicodemus finds what many of us find: Jesus brings about a crisis. Jesus demands a decision. You’re either in or out. You either follow or walk away. You either step into the light or hide out in the darkness. There is just no room to be neutral when it comes to Jesus. Even no decision is really a decision.
Lent has a way of bringing that point of crisis to the forefront. For forty days, we walk in the footsteps of Jesus’ journey in the wilderness and temptation. For forty days, we recall the forty years that the Israelites spent wandering in the desert of their own sin and rebellion. For forty days, we face our own demons as we make our way to the cross. For forty days, the crisis of Jesus calls to us to make a decision - light or darkness?
There is good news couched in this language of crisis, however. “For God did not send his Son into world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” While the coming of Jesus does bring about a sort of judgment, his purpose is not to come as prosecutor or judge. Rather, his purpose is to come as pardoner - to come as the bringer of forgiveness and the agent of reconciliation. He has come to stand in the gap, repairing the breach, paving the way for us to make our way to the Father. He has come to be our light - our beacon, our lighthouse, so that we can find our way back home.
Prayer: God, I know that I am at a crossroads. I can choose to move closer to you or to run away. I can choose surrender or rebellion. I can choose life or death. I can choose light or darkness. Help me to choose you, regardless of the path down which that decision may lead me. Jesus, I choose you. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Amen.