“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
– Plato –
In the gray dusk, the little girls skipped at my side next to the wall of the empty school building.
“Look at our shadows!” I pointed out my 5’10” shadow, looking disproportionately squat next to the shorter, equally-thick shadows of my small friends.
The nine-year-old giggled. “When Ingrid was little, she was afraid of her shadow.”
I turned and smiled at her seven-year-old sister.
The older sister continued. “She thought it was a monster chasing her.”
I nodded, raising my eyebrows. “That’s understandable.” The girls went on. I hopscotched behind them in the parking lot, trailed by the furiously-hopping three-year-old grunting with the effort of keeping up with the “big kids.”
I smiled to myself. “She was afraid of her shadow,” I mused. “Aren’t we all.”
This sin. This sin that so easily besets me. It crouches, lies in wait for me. And it catches me, pins me down, time after time.
For me, it’s unbelief. For another, anger. Or pride. Or jealously. Or fear. Whatever form it takes, sin sinks in its claws and refuses to let go.
And so, we become like little Ingrid–afraid of our shadows. Terrified of the past that trails us. Frightened that we will never get away from the monster chasing us.
We all are followed by a shadow.
But… I have learned a few things about mine.
1. My shadow is not a reflection of who I am
That squat, distorted blackness that follows me is not me.
Sometimes I sin. In fact, often I sin.
But there is a new, free me. I am a redeemed self: upright, and solid, and joyous and more like a reflection of my Savior than my shadow ever was.
I am not my past. I am not my sin. I am not my regrets. I am a new girl, all washed and alive and real.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 –
2. Only light brings shadows
When knowledge of my sin drags me down, I realize something: only a changed heart sees the darkness of sin.
Until the sun dawns, there is no shadow.
Until Christ dawned upon my soul, I did not know how black my heart was. I could not understand how grievous my unbelief, my pride, and my rebellion were until the darkness fled before His light.
“What came into being
through the Word was life,
and the life was the light for all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.”
– John 1:3-5, CEB –
3. Even the shadows can be redeemed
“Redeemed” means bought back, restored, or put to new purpose.
Jesus does not erase the memory of my sin, but He does repurpose that sin.
You see, the Light controls the shadows. Just like the sun’s position puts my shadow in a new perspective, Christ’s coming to me puts my sins in a new context.
No longer do I stand condemned. Now, even my shadow is part of my story.
Even my winding past is part of the journey that led me to my Savior. Even the lessons learned by heartbreak, or the sting of rebellion’s consequences are tools in my Master’s hands. Hateful though my sins are, my God is greater than my mistakes.
Sin is never a good thing.
But a good Savior can make even the crooked things straight.
Even the darkest past. Even the guiltiest mind. Even the worst sin. Even the rawest hurt.
Dear Ingrid: You do not have to fear your shadow.
Dear Self: You do not have to fear your past.
Because, “if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7, NKJV).
Morning has dawned, and the shadows are nothing to fear.
My shadow is my tutor, teaching me that I have been made new, I have stepped into the light, and nothing will stop my God from turning all to my good and His glory.
If I were in the dark, I could not even see my shadow.
But I am in the Light, and my Jesus leads even my shadow by the hand.