As part of my Bible in/as literature course this semester, I had the opportunity to read the novel Barabbas which is written by Paar Lagerkvist. It's a fictional account of the events of and following the crucifixion of Jesus from the perspective of Barabbas, the criminal who was spared death when the croud requested he be freed instead of Jesus. It's a fascinating read, which had me thinking "What if?..." a lot as I read it.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this novel was the way the author used visual imagery to supplement the action of the novel. Specifically, Lagerkvist used light, and the way the characters viewed that light, to demonstrate their perception of the Truth of Christ. Barabbas' reaction to Christ was quite mixed to say the least. He feared Christ, and wondered why he'd been spared. So, as one might imagine, his reaction to the light was also mixed. Light was something painful to Barabbas, and he seemed to prefer the darkness. I don't want to give away spoilers, but Barabbas' reaction to the light was one of fear and distrust, while others who found Christ seemed to welcome the light.
These reactions are very similar to how many of us view hope. Whether we profess Christianity or another faith or none at all, we have the choice to hope or not. Hope can be scary, like light. When I wonder what I should be hopeful for, it can be scary to realize that I may not be able to hope for the storybook ending to my delemmas.
Being faced with living life with pain and the frustrations of dealing with that pain isn't fun. It's much easier to live in the darkness of denial. That darkness can be helpful, in the sense that darkness allows us to face that which is immediate. Sometimes, we need to walk through the dark nights so we can learn more a bout ourselves without the distractions of viewing our circumstances. The darkness can be a time to contemplate our reactions and resources, without being distracted by the details of our day to day existence. Ask anyone who wakes up in the middle of the night, and you'll probably hear that these hours spent in the darkness are ideal for learning about the self or the soul.
But the light of hope demands truth about our circumstances. When we truly hope, we acknowledge the things we don't like, but actively seek good things that will make something better. When I "came into the light" and admitted that the pain wasn't getting better, for example, it was incredibly painful, as it is for those with sight when bright lights come on after pitch darkness. But out of that pain came the realization that I could live a good life, even despite the pain. I began to see that I had choices. I could stay upset, continue to deny that things weren't getting better or I could learn relaxation and pain management techniques and learn to adapt to life in pain.
That "coming into the light" happened in late September. The road has been very bumpy. I've had to continue to face the darkness and shadows of living with pain, but have also experienced the hope of realizing that I really could make it through a challenging semester. The lights of hope and truth continue to illuminate my circumstances. I continue to acknowledge the challenges, but I am also able to hope for continued progress and continued chances to grow from the pain.
As our class continued to read literature, my work with the novel Barabbas continued to be helpful in the class. We began to see more references to light in Christian traditions such as Easter (the lengthening of days and growth of nature) and Christmas (the beginning of earth's tilting toward the sun). But we also saw it in the scriptures (the acknowledgement of sin, negativity, pain and sadness giving way to the birth of Christ and promises of peace as well as the death of Christ giving way to the Resurrection).
No matter how you choose to seek the light of hope, I pray that we will all allow hope to acknowledge the bad, and actively seek out the good in our lives and the lives of those around us.