Bob Goff is one of my favorite contemporary Christian writers. His meditation on grace begins with a dissertation about Peter Pan’s shadow. There is a scene in the Disney movie where Peter and his shadow chase each other around the kids’ room. Finally, Peter wrestles it down so that his shadow can be sewn onto his shoes.
Goff says, “Sometimes our past gets stuck to us like our shadows. As much as we try to shake it off or outrun it, we turn around and there it is. I suppose you could eliminate your shadow by living in total darkness, but that’s no life either, is it?”
We each have our shadows, things we regret saying or doing. Scripture calls them “sin.” As dark and icky as they are, I wonder if they might also be exquisite opportunities for grace to manifest, for dark to give way to light before our very eyes.
In “The Book of Mysteries,” Jonathon Cahn presents a series of conversations between the narrator and a “teacher” who asks, “Which came first, the day or the night?”
I think most people would say that night comes when day is over, so day comes first.
The teacher disagrees. “That’s not how God sees it.”
He explains that if day leads to night, then everything goes from light to darkness. Everything is in the process of getting darker. And so is the way of the world. We go from day to night, from youth to aging, from strength to weakness, and ultimately, from life to death.
“It’s the way of the world, but it’s not the way of God. When God created the universe, it was not day and night…”
I stopped reading and got my Bible. The teacher is right. Scripture says, “There was evening, and then there was morning.” (Gen 1:5) The first day began with a night.
The teacher says, “It is the night that comes first.” He explains that as children of God, we live from night to day. We are born in the darkness, but our lives are always moving toward the light.
I only know of one thing that has ever brought light to my dark places, the presence of a savior. Without forgiveness — without sacred grace, my life would be a futile series of rooms where I unsuccessfully attempt to outrun my shadow.
When people want to know why I follow Jesus, it is because I don’t know any other way to move from darkness to light, weakness to strength, despair to hope, from tears of sadness to tears of forgiveness.
There is no shadow in complete darkness. There is also no shadow when we are positioned directly below the midday sun, or in life — the Son.
Goff explains, “We can’t escape our shadows like Peter Pan did, if only for a little while. In some ways our past is stuck on us no matter what we do. We don’t need to let who we used to be decide who we are going to be. When we treat the shadows of our past like they’re living, breathing versions of ourselves today, we give them too much power. We can move forward in grace, knowing the fight with yesterday is over…”
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing. … I will make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isa 43:18, 19)
Goff closes with, “Grace means this: tomorrow is always a friend. It isn’t that yesterday didn’t happen. It just doesn’t matter anymore.”
Sylvia Peterson is former co-pastor for Bald Hill Community Church and the author of “The Red Door: Where Hurt and Holiness Collide,” which can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. She and her husband are chaplains for the Bald Hills Fire Department. You can email her at email@example.com.