Whenever the human eye comes in contact with a bright light, it takes a picture. According to my ophthalmologist friend, Dr. Keith Thompson, this effect is called “afterglow.” Basically, that means that when the eyelid falls like a curtain over the retina, an imprint of light remains.
I remember the first time I noticed this phenomenon. I was sitting in the backseat of a gray Cadillac parked next to a gas pump. My seven-year-old body was sweating in the Arkansas summer heat. I remember looking up through the window and catching sight of the sun. No shades. Just my eyes and the sun meeting for a millisecond. I blinked and looked away quickly. I closed my eyes but inside the darkness of my closed lids, I saw the outline of the sun as clearly as if I were still staring at it. I opened my eyes and noticed that the spot stayed. It rudely interrupted my line of vision and no matter how many times I opened and closed my eyes it was still there. It both annoyed and fascinated me.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
Just as the sun leaves an impression on our eyes, the Word of God leaves an imprint on our hearts when we study it. His Word is the spiritual sun that shines light into our souls and when we look full-on at the pages of Scripture – no distractions, just our eyes and the Word of God meeting face-to-face – it burns and brands itself onto our hearts. Even when we close the Book, we can still see it. It interrupts and adjusts our line of vision so that we start to see the world as He sees it.
A few months ago, I again caught sight of the sun and the spot was again implanted in my vision. But this time, the Lord was birthing this post in my heart and I had a thought. Will the eye do the same when it meets with a man-made light? So, like any genius suffering for a theory, I decided to test it out. (Kids, don’t try this at home.) I looked directly into a nearby light bulb for half a second. I looked away and found that, though it left a similar imprint, it did not last as long nor burn as brightly as the imprint of the sun. When you look at something that is reflectingor imitating the sun, it does not leave as deep an impact as when you look directly at the source of light.
So often, as Christians, we do this to ourselves spiritually. We feed off of the limited imprint of spiritual light bulbs: church camps, weekend conferences, or the faith of those around us. But when the lights go out and things get dark in our lives, the electric imprint just doesn’t seem to satisfy.
We forget to look at the source of all light and energy.
Just as He is the one who created physical light, the Lord is also the one who creates a light inside of us when He comes to dwell in us. And when we, during the lighted times of life, stare intently into the Word of God—soaking it up, memorizing it and meditating on it—we ensure an imprint that will last even in the darkest moments of our lives.
Trust me when I say, the man-made lights can’t last forever. Even the bulbs with the most energy still need to be changed. And when that happens, darkness will come. Jesus told us in John 16:33 that “in this world we will have trouble.” It isn’t a “maybe” or a “possibly.” We are assured that at some point, the lights will go out.
So wherever you are, night or day, go to the source of light, the God of the Universe. Seek out His lantern, the Word of God. Read it. Memorize it. Stare at it. No shades. No bulbs. Just you and the Son of God. Face-to-face. Because when the lights go out, and the world gets black, the Word of God will be carved on your heart and will guide you through every part of your life, dark and light. He will be the Lamp to your tired and dirty feet and the Light to your rough and bumpy path.
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”