Summary: We choose darkness, but could choose light in our morality and our language. To choose darkness is to injure ourselves and others.
Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC January 25, 1987
For a number of years I have made it a habit to get up at five o’clock; yes, that’s five in the morning. I’ve made it my habit as a part of my set of personal disciplines, because I find that I can get at a number of things well before the rest of the household is in my way and well before the telephone and the busy work agenda takes me over. So up and out at five.
But there are some risks with this discipline. If you are waking up at five in the morning, there is the risk, for instance, that you will not be awake at five in the afternoon. And if you are in some kind of committee meeting or counseling conference – well, let's just say that you might not be too favorably impressed if you are telling me your life story and I nod off to sleep in the middle of it! But then that would make us even, since some of you nod off during my sermons! There are some risks associated with getting up that early.
But one of those risks is on my mind this morning as a way to get us thinking about the theme of the message. That risk is the risk of stumbling. You see, at five in the morning, except during some of the summer months, it's dark. I know I am telling some of you something you didn't know; you've never been up that early and you didn't know it was still dark. Well, it is, I assure you, and you can readily guess what that means. First, where is that stupid clock? Can't find it to turn it off. And then, out of bed, on to the cold, cold floor: where are those slippers? And start walking. Very carefully, with a little stagger and a lurch; I do admit this old body rebels still at early rising. Walk carefully, but ouch! Now what was that my toe hit? Only the same bed post that's been there for sixteen years! How come it got in the way of my big toe?
When you insist on walking in the dark, the risk is that you are going to stumble, even when you are walking through familiar territory. When you can't see and you are a little confused anyway, the cobwebs have not been swept away by the first cup of coffee, when you walk in the dark, you're likely to stumble and even to get hurt.
It gets worse, folks. All kinds of things accumulate on the floor next to my bed. I don't know how three pairs of shoes got there. Surely I have not been dropping shoes there night after night. But have you ever planted your bare foot right square on a pile of two left loafers and a right boot? It is most uncomfortable! But again, I say, if you insist on walking in darkness, you'll find that you have in fact left yourself lots of obstacles and that they will rise up and smite you, like it or not.
I say again, too, that all sorts of things accumulate on the floor by my bed during the night, things I did not give permission to be there. One morning I did my five o’clock routine, staggered along the bedroom floor a couple of steps, and planted my full weight of a hundred and mmmmmmm pounds right square on our little dog! Well, that was the morning the whole family received the precious privilege of getting up at five to investigate the howls and yelps. I did the howling and the yelping; the dog was pretty calm about it:
If you walk in darkness, there are beasts out there lurking for you. There are some most unpleasant surprises for those who will not walk in the light.
Now I have several choices, don't I? I can choose to keep on with this little game, and can keep on skinning my shins and stumping my toes. I can choose to walk in darkness and I can keep on stumbling. Or I can choose to fix up a little night-light or otherwise get enough light on the subject that I can see what I'm doing. It's really quite simple what the choices are. But the trouble with me and the trouble with most of us it that we don't learn from our stumbling. We don't take the kind of action that would help us cope with the darkness. We just act as though we were powerless and we keep on stumbling rather than turning on the light and walking in the light.
Spiritual stumblers are like that too. Spiritual stumblers choose to ignore the light and walk in the darkness. Spiritual stumblers, given plenty of information about where the light is and how you can get insight for a confident walk, still choose to leave the lights turned off and to stumble instead of walk.