"Nature to a saint is sacramental. If we are children of God, we have a tremendous treasure in Nature. In every wind that blows, in every night and day of the year, in every sign of the sky, in every blossoming and withering of the earth, there is a real coming of God to us if we will simply use our starved imagination to realize it." (Oswald Chambers, from My Utmost for His Highest, Feb. 10th)
Light is one of the most elemental properties of nature, and yet it is also the one we take most for granted. When I enter a room, I immediately have a like or dislike of the setting, often inarticulable, and yet I suspect what I am often reacting to is the lighting of the room. I may say ambience, yet I often mean lighting. First light is different from last light, dawn from sunset. A room lit by a naked overhead bulb is far less inviting and warm, however bright, than one lit by the warm yet muted glow of lamps. We all consider ourselves to look better in some light than in other light. Light must be shed on a subject, before we understand it. Light inhabits our daily vocabulary, shades our perception of reality, divides our day into night and day, activity and sleep, and is the foundation of life itself. Light enables us to see, to find, and to observe.
Architect Louis Kahn said that "All material in nature, the mountains and the streams and the air and we, are made of Light which has been spent, and this crumpled mass called material casts a shadow, and the shadow belongs to Light". While I do not entirely understand Kahn's maxim, I appreciate his sentiment: everything is affected by light, is shadowed by light.
That's why the ubiquity of light in Scripture is not surprising. It's there in the beginning of all things and at the end of all things. God said "Let there be light," (Gen. 1:3), light being His first creation after making the basic stuff of heaven and earth, and at the end of time, when there is a new heaven and earth, we are reminded that for those blessed dwellers "[t]here will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light" (Rev. 22:5).
In some not entirely explicable way, God is bound up with light. Though Scripture says light is God's creation, it also leads one to believe that light emanates from God Himself, is in some way part of the essence of who God is. "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all," says the Apostle John (1 Jn. 1:5), and we know that he is not simply describing a physical property but the very character of God: wholly good, the source of all revelation, the One by Whom we see all things. As the Psalmist says , "in your light we see light" (Ps. 36:9).
Like every created thing, light points beyond itself and represents, as Oswald Chambers has said, "a real coming of God to us if we will simply use our starved imagination to realize it." New light filtered through my window shades reminds me that "his compassions never fail," that "they are new every morning" (Lam. 3:23). The obscurity of both object and thought in darkness reminds me that His light --- His enlightenment --- is necessary for me to see clearly, to understand the world from His perspective, to know what is true. There is no revelation without light. Nor would we know contrast without light. As Arlo Guthrie said once, "There's no light without a dark to stick it in." Light --- so common, so taken for granted --- is all about God, a constant reminder of His presence, the antithesis of all that is dark and evil.
So next time you wake to light, remember that God is coming to you. Just open your eyes.