For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
— Ephesians 5: 8–10

I desperately want to be light in this world. I want to live as a child of light. For me, this means being cheerful with others, mercifully dismissing their mistakes and flaws, being an easy person who goes with the flow, and representing Jesus’ mercy in all my dealings with others. I want to be perfect at this. I want to be immune to everything that is normally bothersome, not even noticing when someone cuts me off in traffic or my order at a restaurant comes out wrong. I read once about a mystic that lived in the Arctic, who was literally immune to the effects of the bitter cold; he was so other-worldly that he didn’t even notice it at all. I’ve thought I want to be like that, so “not-of-this-world” that nothing bothers me at all. If I could do this, I could be pure light.

But I’m not immune. Over the fall I was working in a job in which I had a very high exposure to people in poverty, and I had to make certain judgements about them. On top of those required judgments (i.e., “Is your income low enough to qualify for our Christmas program?”), however, I found myself struggling with other judgements related to the reasons they are in poverty. And then I judged myself about judging them.

I’ve realized that there are still areas in my soul that I haven’t fully let Jesus’ light touch, to give me the mercy he wants to give. I can be unspeakably hard on myself about ways that I do not measure up to being the person I think God wants me to be. But how can I truly be merciful toward others, when I am not merciful toward myself? There has to be a balance. Even as I strive to be the person God calls me to be, to let the light shine out, I also have to let the light shine in, to receive the mercy and love of God, imperfect as I am.

Most of you have your own demons, I’m sure — old things, like my perfectionism, that still haunt you. Will you let the light of the world shine into you, so you can receive God’s perfect love and forgiveness? Only then can you truly live as a child of the light.