When I was taking classes toward my masters in counseling, one of my favorite professors was an older gentleman with many years' experience in the counseling world. Whatever class he was teaching, we could be sure that he would regale us with fascinating tales of his experiences as a therapist.
Inevitably, he would conclude one of his yarns with this phrase: "That's when I knew: something was wrong."
And inevitably, I would think, "Hey buddy, I know that much already, and I'm paying you a whole lot of money to get way more specific than that."
I wanted to know WHAT was wrong. Psychosis? Personality disorder? Bipolar 2? What? What? What?
After I'd had this professor for a few classes, I was brave enough to start asking, "What exactly was wrong, in the end?" And I don't think he ever told me.
Maybe he couldn't remember the specifics.
More likely, though, he'd learned something that's taken me a while to catch onto: walk in the light you have.
When you know something's wrong, KNOW it, and take action accordingly.
You don't need to wait for all the information, and you don't need to wait for permission.
When there's light on the path ahead of you, start walking.
I was thinking about that this summer when I and my home-from-college kid had a movie day and watched Tangled.
You know Tangled, right? It's the story of Rapunzel, trapped in a tower and longing for escape. There's a point in the movie where our heroine is just like my professor: she knows something is wrong.
She doesn't know the specifics yet.
It just doesn't feel okay any more.
Most of us are people who love a status quo--even if our status quo is an absolute wreck.
It is really, really hard to let ourselves know when something is wrong.
Even harder to begin thinking that we might need to DO something about that wrongness.
It's really, really hard to walk into the light, mostly because we just don't know what's out there. We're familiar with our dark little tower. We know the confines of our prison. We may even have a lot of religious rules and regulations that defend said jail cell.
If we do manage to get ourselves out, we may feel like Rapunzel after her escape.
Change is no easy task, for Rapunzel or any of us.
It's so hard, in fact, that a lot of times we'll choose not to change, even when we know better.
Jesus's friend John put it this way: "And this is the condemnation: that Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19)
It's easy to quote that verse at the clearly bad people.
But what about those of us whose evil deeds are composed of perfectionism, performance, people-pleasing and control? Overwork, overserving, overspiritualization? The need to save ourselves by looking good and being admired?
It's sometimes harder to leave that kind of darkness than the clearly bad stuff.
What's more, moving from darkness to light is not simply hopping across a line.
Before: dark. After: light.
Before: lost. After: saved.
Before: a mess. After: jim-dandy.
It's more like Eugene Peterson's beautiful phrase: a long obedience in the same direction.
Maybe it's like the manna that fed the children of Israel: just enough for today, for this next step, and always more for tomorrow.
When we realize that something is wrong, we pay attention.
We let ourselves know it.
We apply our gentle curiosity.
We breathe, breathe, breathe.
We stick with our tribe.
We hold onto the truth: Love wins.
We take the next step, into more light.
And slowly, slowly, we find our way forward.