There are home towns and ghost towns. Some of it I’m afraid to pass through. Some of it I love to revisit. There are places I won’t go but need to. That land sits like a diamond on black velvet or a single light wooing the distance surrounded by dark.
There are highlands I want to climb, but never seem to get beyond the foothills. Or they get shrouded by cloud or I turn a corner and find myself somewhere else.
The journey of becoming a person needs the cartography of a human heart and no one is born with a map.
I’m thinking about Sunday and asking what is the world of a human heart like?
It’s pleasure and sadness. It’s gift and loss. It’s discovering and forgetting. It is answered and unanswered question. It’s chaos and peace, loneliness and laughter, sorrow and solace.
This is some of the landscape in our worlds. The worlds we inhabit. The worlds beneath our skin. That mostly we fear showing or admitting even to ourselves, until we try to tidy bits of it away- like hiding dirty washing behind the couch where our guest is seated – and hope to God they don’t find it there.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world but people loved darkness… and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.Johns gospel
How often do we allow the light to reach into the darkness of self-reproach. To fall on the the harm we do ourselves. The harsh judgments we make on our living, or the excuses we wear like dark glasses over all we fear admitting. We are afraid and get angry at the thought of being exposed.
Sometimes we trust others with a glimpse of our world, but not too much because we suspect there’s too much that won’t be accepted for what it is, and will be met with condemnation rather than love.
Not pure daylight or shapless midnight dark – our inner world is shadowed, complex, capable of great tenderness and cruelty. It’s warped and wounded, needy and illusory, selfish and selfless, hungry and hurt in ways we are too embarrassed for others to see.
And we try to find our way through it without a map.
Into this world comes the light of God. Is God’s light a prison searchlight? Is it the bare bulb of an inquisitor in your face? Is it as the harsh unblinking stare of neon?
No. It’s not.
To have God’s light search your hidden and secret life is to let gentleness touch were we are angry, kindness fold around our failure, forgiveness clothe our naked shame. To be searched by God’s light is to be loved exactly at the point you thought you were unlovable – if we won’t move away.
Let this light search for us in the shadowed backstreets of who we are, inviting us out into the open, like the dawn slowly and gently giving shape to what is there, attuning our eyes to see.
Jesus is the light of the world who gently, honestly, with great tenderness wants to show us who we truly are. Jesus is the cartographer of every human heart.
I wrote the song above about my parents generation. Born in the mid 1930’s just before the second world war. it’s the cartography of their world. And part of it echoes with a story my gran told me. A true story. It happened during the second world war, on a winters day, at Garscube road in Glasgow.
Mary Fisher was making her way through the snow on an errand to the butchers for her gran. What happened to her is in the song. The song is called own the world’s disgrace.
Light and shadow and where we linger, uncertain in between. Come, light of Christ, and find us.