The biblical writers referred to darkness in each the gospels, as did Peter, Paul and John in their epistles. We tend to think of darkness as a metaphor for wickedness. For evil. The metaphor is certainly apt. But darkness is more than a metaphor; it is also a palpable reality. You can feel it, smell it. It clings to you. Living in it, you don’t think about it. You figure it’s the norm. It’s everyone’s reality, or perspective, right? It’s not until a light hits you that you realize how dark the darkness is that you’ve been living in.
I was introduced to the Light the night of February 10, 1972 by two fellow Marines, Terry and Mike. They shared the Gospel with me as I’d never heard it, and from then on I was no longer comfortable living in darkness.
The following morning after drill and calisthenics (gotta love the Marines), Terry and Mike asked if I’d like to go with them to the Serviceman’s Center in downtown Naples for Liberty. They described it as a Christian USO. I said I would.
INTO THE LIGHT
That night as I entered the Center I entered a world of Light. Just as darkness is a palpable thing, so is light. Like darkness, you can sense it. You can see it. Remember Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light?”
I saw the light, I saw the light, no more darkness no more night. Now Im so happy no sorrow in sight, Praise the Lord, I saw the light.
These lyrics are true. You really can see the light; which is why, if you’re walking well with the Lord, people will take notice that there is something different about you. They’ll see it in your eyes, on your face.
THE SERVICEMAN’S CENTER
The Serviceman’s Center was the home of missionaries Jesse and Nettie Miller, Jesse a onetime prisoner of the Japanese army and survivor of the infamous Bataan death march (his testimony is found in the book, Nine Must Die). The home was crowded with servicemen––Navy, Army, Air Force and a few Marines from the Fleet, harbored in the Bay of Naples. The men were playing guitars, and ping pong, some were reading Bibles, some chatting or playing chess. No one was cussing, or crudely joking. The room was filled with light, it was also filled with Life.
Men came up and introduced themselves to me, making me feel at home. No one pressured me to do anything. I’m sure they could discern that I was not a Christian at this point, that I was a searcher; still, they just treated me like one of their own. Amazing.
Nettie fed us all a wonderful home-cooked meal, after which we gathered around Jesse for an informal Bible study. He asked us to turn to the book of Ephesians. I had no idea what an Ephesians was, so Terry helped me find it. As Jesse taught, all I could think about as I looked around the circle of men, at their glowing faces, the sincerity in their voices as they asked and answered questions, was that these men had something very special. Love. Joy. Peace. A sense of belonging, of family.
By contrast, these guys truly had something that I didn’t have. Just sitting in their presence, in their light, I knew that I was living in darkness and headed for hell. It was a very, very sobering thought. It put the fear of God in me.
Later that night, as we went back to the barracks, feeling the deep conviction of the Holy Spirit in my soul, I told Terry and Mike that I wanted to become a Christian. So we knelt in Terry’s room, and I prayed the sinner’s prayer. It was simple, childlike. I told Jesus that I believed in Him, in His perfect sinless life, that I believed in His death and resurrection for my sins. I confessed that I was sorry for my sins, and that I wanted to be saved.
That Friday night at 11:00pm, the Light of Christ flooded my darkened soul, and I was washed in the blood of the Lamb. I was born again. Jesus was now my Lord and Savior. I was His child. He had found me in the darkness of the San Fran bar and called me into His Light. I’ll admit that it might be considered by some to be a cliche, but words truly cannot express the “joy unspeakable and full of glory” that I received that night!