"There's a storm inside of us. I've heard many team guys speak of this. A burning. A river. A drive. An unrelenting desire to push yourself harder and further than anyone could think possible. Pushing ourselves into those cold, dark corners, where the bad things live. Where the bad things fight. [The Navy Seals] wanted that fight at the highest volume. A loud fight. The loudest, coldest, darkest, most unpleasant of the unpleasant fights." This is the account of Marcus Luttrell, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. The SEALS train for this kind of a fight. It's a fight most of us wouldn't dare engage in, a door too terrifying to open. When Luttrell had lost his entire combat team and was left for dead in the mountains of Afghanistan, he could only do the next thing: keep moving and pressing forward. "I had no answers," he said, "only hope... I was not giving up..." Against seemingly insurmountable darkness, Luttrell held only the flickering light of hope. "My God had not spoken again. But neither had He forsaken me. I knew that. For damned sure, I knew that."
In the final scene of Night of the Museum 3, the late Robin Williams tells his friend to smile because the sun is rising. He's right, you know. The sun is always rising, always on its way to dispel the darkest night. If only those words had jumped from the script and into the soul.
I walked the black dog around the lake not far from our home on a cold winter's afternoon. As the sun bowed below the mountains south, the last light of the day reflected off of the cold waters. The Christmas luminaries, artfully placed by volunteers celebrating the Light, sparked awake ready to bridge the dark until the new dawn. It is never the last light.
A famous Catholic priest, Martin Luther said as much. “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” God doesn't call us to perfection. He calls us to show up with Christ-courage, reflecting the perfect Light cast from heaven. We're called to plant a tree when the world is stripping the forest bare.
The greatest heroes are sometimes the ones who simply just show up. The heroes are those who fail and try again. The true superheroes are those who rise, perhaps wearily, but stand steady on legs of faith. Luttrell said, “I will never quit. ...If knocked down I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to [keep going]. [We are] never out of the fight.”
This is the season of Advent. It's a season of hopeful expectation. Then the world was dark and a Light arrived in the unlikeliest form. Now the world is dark and the Brightest still reflects every day, us mirroring Lasting Light to the world.
Author Ann Voskamp writes that anxieties crowd and that peace is a Person and that Advent signals a time for us to make room. May we make room this season. May we pay attention to slow, look, listen, and find opportunities to reflect the Light that drives out all that's dark. May we have the strength to stand up, show up, and look up for the courage to mirror Light. As poet Elizabeth Elliot writes,
"Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus do the next thing.
Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing."
Some nights are darker than others. Yet, the sun is always rising. The Son, even brighter, has risen. Both always pushing back the dark. You can trust. We're safe to do the right next thing.