“If ever I go missing,” I’ve often told friends, “Santa Fe, New Mexico, would probably be the best place to begin looking for me.”
Perhaps because I have fond memories of time spent exploring there with my husband and children, or possibly because the air there hangs heavy with the scent of roasted Chiles and other spices, Santa Fe is one of my favorite places to visit. Several years ago, my husband surprised me with a twenty-fifth anniversary getaway to Santa Fe where we celebrated together with two of our dearest friends on earth. Rich in history, art, food, and abundant sunshine, the city invites me again and again to walk its streets and taste its culture.
During one of my visits to New Mexico, I learned that the state is one of the top-ranked places in the world for viewing stars and planets. Because of the state’s low population density, little man-made ambient light is present to compete with the glory of the night sky. The lights which shine in the darkness are not eclipsed by lesser man-made ones.
I have been reading, lately, a book which I’ve been enjoying very much. It is written better than anything I could ever hope or dream to write and I identify very strongly with the author’s life circumstances. I’ve been puzzled, however, by trying to identify her worldview. I find myself trying to discern the faith commitments and guiding principles by which she shapes her life. At times, I think her insights are downright biblical. At other times she quotes freely from a renowned mythologist whose writings assert that any old myth is fine and dandy, so long as it works for you. And I quite can’t shake the feeling that the author is allowing the beauty and power of gospel light to be eclipsed by lesser ones.
Now I think it’s important for thinking men and women to read broadly or, as author Karen Swallow Prior described it, to read promiscuously. I firmly believe all truth is God’s truth, and can be articulated by some of the most unlikely sources: a talking jackass, Dr. Phil, Oprah and perhaps, from time to time, even the likes of me. The Apostle Paul himself was clearly not averse to familiarizing himself with the modern philosophies of his day, demonstrating on Mars Hill that he could speak fluent pagan.
At the same time, I’ve been working through the books of I and II Kings in my weekly women’s Bible study. While chronicling the reigns of both the good and bad kings which ruled over God’s people, the author echoes a recurring theme. Many of even the kings who attempted to serve God faithfully failed to remove from the land the high places, altars and shrines to other gods. Although the worship of Yahweh waxed and waned among his people, most of the kings allowed the worship of pagan deities to co-exist and even mingle with that of the one true God.
And Yahweh was none too happy about it.
The God of Israel insisted his people worship him alone. He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt, a land which tolerated worship of this Hebrew God, so long as his followers didn’t get all uppity about their god being better than the ones they worshiped. Yet he demonstrated his superiority by turning their worship of Nile, frogs, and sun back on the Egyptians in the form of plagues. He revealed his power when he rescued his people from their slavery. Yahweh demanded purity in worship among his people as they remembered their deliverance and looked forward to the coming of the true light, which gives light to everyone. (John 1:9)
I wonder, as I attempt to worship and follow the one true God, where I have allowed altars and high places to creep into life. Where, in my reading and thinking, do I embrace the wisdom of this world, permitting it to co-exist and even mingle with my devotion toward the one who delivered me? Where am I allowing artificial man-made light to eclipse the glory of the true light which offers light to all?
I carry in my heart always reminders of the beauty of Santa Fe, including the splendor of a star-filled New Mexico sky. Even if I can’t travel back often as I’d like, I remain in awe of the way God has revealed himself through his handiwork there, and in every place he shines his light. May my life reflect his.
I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none beside me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:5-7, ESV
Joining Emily and the imperfect prose community, this week, as we consider light.