Longing for the Light
The Rev. Kirby Unti, Bishop, NWWA Synod
From the December 2017 edition of The Spirit
We are living during the wet and rainy winter of the year that longs for the light to return to the world. A cold world that has seen far too many mass killings, sexual assaults, bullying, war and murder.
One of the things I admire most about Luther was his capacity to embrace the winter of his own life by acknowledging his own personal depravity. It was in coming face to face with his own shadow that he discovered the light of God’s grace.
I have always counted it a great gift that I had the privilege of doing my Clinical Pastoral Education under the supervision of Dr. William A Miller. Bill wrote the book, “Making Friends With Your Shadow” where he makes the case that all of us have a shadow side to our lives. The classical understanding is that our shadow side is opposite and equal to what we display in public..
This is why it is so shocking when we discover the shadow of someone we hold in high regard.
When people refuse to own their shadow and reveal it to the light it grows in intensity. We see this in the “goody two shoes” types who are often the most critical of their neighbors while appearing to be without fault. Such people work over time suppressing the full truth of their lives and often act in secret.
Jesus was very clear about the importance of knowing your own shadow. He would say things like, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Or he would say, “Remove the log from your own eye before you remove the speck from your neighbors.”
The church ought to be the one place in the community where we can struggle more honestly about the challenges of being human. It ought to be a place that both helps us come to grips with the all of what it means to be human and holds us accountable for addressing our whole lives in healthy ways.
If acknowledging one’s shadow improves the likelihood that one will not act on isn’t it equally true that church and country must do the same?
I think the answer to this is Yes.
This is why the churches of the Northwest issued a letter of apology to the tribes for the horrible and unjust ways we have treated these brothers and sisters.
This is why the 500th Commemoration of the Reformation was a time for Lutherans to confess the horrible ways Luther depicted the Jews and for contributing to the violence that spread across Europe.
It is why delegations from the United States have gathered at Hiroshima and Nagasaki to commit to one another that never again will we unleash such deadly force upon another.
If we take seriously the Lutheran understanding of Saint and Sinner than we need to take more seriously how this same tension manifests itself in corporate ways as well as individual ways.
These are challenging times that we are living in. If we want to change let’s begin with ourselves and own the truth of our own short comings. It is not just the other who needs to see the light. We all do.
The light came into the world and the darkness could not overcome it.
This is the true gift of Christmas.
Come Lord Jesus!