by Debra Woods
Today I decided to search the index in my triple combination for the word "Light." In reading the small exerpts regarding light in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, the thought came to me that light dispels darkness, and illuminates truth. I thought about how dawn gradually moves us from darkness to light - from not seeing much of anything, to seeing clearly. It isn't sudden, it is gradual.
I think that without light, illumination, truth - we are left to our own devises. We are left to be driven by our animal needs of hunger, sleep, shelter, pleasure, power, acquisition and so forth. We rely only on what our personal experience has taught us. We are absorbed in these pursuits and live a dog eat dog existence.
What provides light? What can lift our eyes upward, above the carnal concerns that surround us? What do we have to do to begin to perceive light? If we are unfamiliar with it, it can be blinding and painful - we might reject it or cover our heads to protect against it.
I've started doing something - an experiment in the practice of sun gazing. You start out looking directly at the setting or rising sun (for me sunset works best) for 10 seconds. The next day, you add ten more seconds, and so on, working up to 45 minutes. I'm up to six minutes. Some days clouds obscure the sun. Some days I forget or miss the sunset. But I just pick up where I left off the next time I am able to catch the sunset. No way would I have been able to go six minutes the first day. But it was very easy for me to do yesterday.
The reason I'm doing this? Well, I think it has to do with my interest in the topic of light. I stumbled on a story about sun gazing and started reading about it. I grew up thinking that you could damage your eyes if you looked directly at the sun. I also knew I had looked directly at the sun briefly during sunset before and it didn't bother me. I thought about how we get energy from the sun indirectly by eating plants, or animals who eat plants. Plants get their energy directly from the sun through photosynthesis. We don't get energy directly from the sun through our skin, and our eyes are blinded by the sun, most of the time. Can we get energy directly from the sun through our eyes during those hours when it is low in the sky and less intense? I don't know, but I was willing to try. Six minutes is still not very long, so I don't know if I am benefitting much so far. It does make me happier to do it - I mean, I go outside - that is good, I usually walk, that is good, and it just makes me happier to be in the sunlight, but I think that it lifts my spirits to look at the sun. I think my eyesight is improving, but it is too early to tell.
Anyway, the point is, that we basically live in darkness - separated from the source of light and truth - God and His Son Jesus Christ. And moving from this darkness into light has to be gradual, or it really could destroy us. We would never survive the presence of God right now, though we used to live in his presence. Our physical body is used to darkness. But we can adapt to the light and truth of God, gradually, until eventually we WILL be able to abide his presence, and see rather than be blinded.
Wherever we are, we can start there to begin building our comfort level with light and truth, a little at a time, constantly adjusting to the brilliance. It will shine on us and reveal ourselves to us - this can be painful - to see the truth about ourselves - but eventually, if we don't block it out, we can benefit from seeing the truth and making adjustments that are needed.
Learning, accepting and living the gospel is a gradual process and we work at it our entire lives. I find I make progress and then, BAM! Something knocks me down - some change or other of almost any kind can be like the rug being pulled out from under me. So it is a three steps forward, two steps back, sometimes four steps back sort of a thing.
I decided to look up and read one of those verses listed in the index on light each day. Slow steady progress - even very minute progress, is better than trying to jump in all at once and be so shocked and overwhelmed that I never want to go there again.
I joined the church when I was 16. I thought I was jumping all the way in at once - but even if it was a big change for me, the intervening years have just gone to show that I was only barely getting started back then. I can't believe how much I've been learning recently - and this year will be 40 years since my baptism! Still walking toward the light - baby steps - making progress and knowing I've a very long way to go.