The light shines in the darkness

The light shines in the darkness

We walked into a tent encampment next to the freeway downtown. We are standing by the off-ramp, surrounded by tents, garbage, and drug paraphernalia. It feels like we are removed from civilization. I have never been in a situation like this and am filled with anxiety. Standing with my canvas tote bag filled with survival items, I make friends quickly. The motor powering this camp is heroin. The engine hums steadily, people of all walks of life coming and going. Black, white, Latino, young, and old. Certain tents seem to be steering the entire camp toward darkness and death. I talk with a woman who says she has been addicted to opioids since she was twelve: “I broke all the bones in my leg. I have metal screws in my knee that expand when it rains. All the pain meds they gave me changed my brain chemistry.” Before I can respond with anything hopeful, she excuses herself and shoots up on the couch in the middle of camp. My coworker is hugging a longtime street friend who is crying. Tears of regret and shame drip into the dirty blankets on the ground because he was unable to go to his dad’s funeral. “I lost my I.D. and couldn’t get a plane ticket.” A resident invites us to go check on the tents toward the back of camp. We walk up the hill and somebody asks us for a Bible. A voice from a tent thanks us for the granola bars and wishes us an enjoyable summer. There is a young married couple frantically pacing up and down the camp as if they are looking for a precious keepsake or long-lost treasure.

It’s hard to make sense of our time under the freeway. Drug addiction brings everyone to the same place of hopelessness, stealing life and dignity. However, the light of Christ shines everywhere. Reminding us in our garbage that we are created in the image of God, created for life. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5, NIV). The true light of Jesus, which gives light to everyone, has come into the world. (John 1:9). Even under the freeway.

Michael Cox

One thought on “The light shines in the darkness

  1. Powerful.

    My wife is a baby nurse in the PICU.

    I often point out to people that the ICU is a place to watch children die.

    Not always, of course. Many days and months, her work is quite rewarding and exciting. She saves a lot of people’s lives.

    But there is no way around it. The ICU is also the place people go when they are past saving. It’s the place where that gets determined, a lot of the time. And the things my wife describes are horror to think of.

    Brains seeping out the nose of a child.

    Cleaning that mess up so a parent can come in and hold the hand of a dying child. The wailing mama’s. Stuff you never unsee and unhear.

    In this world, such is a fact of life. Part of the human condition. There will always be such a place with such a need. And you can’t save them all. But you do touch them all. You do dare to care. And your care makes some kind of difference that matters.

    I tell my wife, that if it were my child, even if she cant save the kid, I would want her to be there. I would want her hand to hold amid the suffering. IF it were me, I would want her kind face nursing me and giving me to Jesus.

    God bless you.

    The work is … well it leaves scars on the caregivers too. Someone must be there. And yes, your light shines. Jesus in you.

    Thanx for sharing it.


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