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When the Lights Come On

My first official apartment was a rundown brick barracks on busy Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, right off the D.C. beltway. It was a homely and spacious two-bedroom, a third-story walk-up with no A/C, windows that didn't close all the way, noisy radiator heat, and old, bumpy parquet floors worn to a dull sheen. It was a bit dumpy, but I loved it because it was all mine. In keeping with the overall vibe, the bathroom and kitchen were pre-war…and roach-infested.

The actual place today! They spruced her up.

One night early on, I flipped the light switch on, horrified to see the roaches flee to their little roach roosts. Just twenty years old, I didn’t realize that I could call the management office for the exterminator, so I lived with my icky little friends as best I could for a while. I know it’s awful, but I just avoided them at first by not turning on the light. Of course, in the dark is where the roaches were doing their best partying.

Then I attempted to do battle, cleaning and spraying insecticide to conquer them. It didn’t work. The little vermin weren't fully eradicated even after I called for an exterminator.

Here in Florida, we have Palmetto bugs, a giant species of roach the size of your thumb that will make you jump up on the coffee table with two feet like an iron-ab parkour champion. Thankfully, they don't herd like the common kind and prefer nature to human garbage.

Roaches are primordial bionic beings and resisted all attempts to clean them out 100 percent.

Just Like Vermin

Sin (defects, failings, etc.) is a lot like roaches. The word alone makes us bristle with disgust. It’s inclined to hide, to flee light that reveals it (John 3:20). Its ickiness and impact are there whether we see it or not. Over a lifetime of diligent “extermination,” from within and without, we may sin less, even much less, but we’re never sinless this side of heaven.

(Friends: I know I’m wearing this topic out, but I believe it’s on God’s mind.)

Here Jesus is warning his disciples not to be like the hypocrites, knowingly concealing or denying their sin even while saddling others with their self-elevating value system. We can all be hypocrites to some degree—not living up to our own standard, if not God’s. The real issue is hiding it and not owning it.

Please note that this passage goes on to say:

“Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!” (v.4)

It's a bad idea to keep the lights off so we don't see the roaches, letting them overrun us. Nor do we want to ignore the solitary roach or two knowing full well there are surely more around somewhere, growing strong and starting families. We'd surely never want to feed the roaches a banquet of tasty trash or old cardboard. We don't want them to get comfy and invite friends.

This isn’t us rolling up our shirt sleeves. It's not make-pretend and AI filter cover-ups. It’s obedience (another irritant), cooperation, and humble surrender.

Unchecked sin wreaks havoc inside us and in society. God’s standard is not an arbitrary killjoy. It’s the equalizing, harmonizing framework for life in community and peace. The ongoing practice of admitting to God and trusted others when we’ve veered off path is for our individual and common welfare.


We’re seeing the impact of a world turned away from God. I want to point fingers, but I know change begins with me. There’s little worse than a troubled conscience, a prompt we don’t want to flee. While the initial pain of seeing and dealing with our defects can be very intense, the result is freedom and harmony. Christ died to set us free from the law of sin and death. That was never an invitation to willfully abuse grace.

When the lights come on—through consequences, conscience, or companions that reveal our failings—do we own it? Do we confess to God and a trusted other, as James 5:16 urges us to do?

God is gracious and merciful. His intent is loving liberation and reconciliation. He doesn’t unload on us with both guns. He reveals more to us over time when He knows we have the ability to feel and deal. He gives us time to grow into our ability to see the truth when He reveals it, whether directly to our conscience by the power of His Spirit, when we suffer consequences, or when someone confronts us.

The problem happens if we ignore the signals and persist in the destructive behavior, ignoring the signs or pleas to address the underlying issue. Secrecy, depression, anxiety, fear, anger, healthy shame, personal confrontations, conflict, and addictions of all kinds (socially acceptable and otherwise) CAN BE signs we need to repent. We don’t want to ignore them.

I think of my own kids. I don't start yelling or plucking privileges until I've repeated myself eleven times. Or the roaches! I tried everything before I called the exterminator. You get the picture.

We may think the pain of feeling and dealing is worse than persisting in our pattern, or we may think we’re giving up some priceless pleasure or our security blanket. It’s a lie.

We may suffer increasingly harmful impacts, or our consciences can be seared, and we no longer feel the full weight of our sin until we face a truly devastating loss. Even then, we can always return to God, who welcomes us with open arms. Assuming we re/turn.

This principle applies to us personally, to churches, corporations, or groups, to nations, and to planets. Check history to see.


Spiritual sages like the church fathers and mothers sought to remain alert to their human tendencies by regular self-examination—daily, if not continually.

Twelve-step programs offer a handy tool that parallels the waning New Testament ideal of dealing with sin…or character defects. Step 10 urges continuous self-examination (at least daily if not whenever conscience calls), focusing on dishonesty (including motives), fear, resentment, and selfishness to “simplify” matters. That abbreviated list alone can keep most of us busy. We likely have our own favorites.

If spotted, we’re urged to promptly ask God to remove the sin, quickly confess to a trusted other, make any recommended amends, and then turn to help someone else, short-circuiting wallowing in self-condemnation.

Again, this isn't strenuous striving or self-improvement. It’s not pretending to be ok, or even a paragon, and then indulging our secret struggles behind a façade. It’s humble admission, prayer, and cooperation with an all-powerful God and caring companions. It’s re/turning to Jesus as the remedy.

More is Being Revealed

“For the word of God is alive and powerful…It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” Hebrews 4:12-13

Word has it that more will be revealed. Read the headlines and you’ll see that the lights are coming on more and more, exposing what lies beneath facades. For our own sake and the world at large, it’s way better to come promptly and voluntarily clean of our own humble initiative, rather than the alternative.

That means if God is shining a light on your wayward ways, re/turn to God and a trusted other so you can be free and clear, and restored to harmonious, unfettered relationship.

Please take note of how Jesus concludes his sermon:

 “’Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear.’” Luke 12:4 (NLT)

I don’t like this side of Jesus. I really don’t. As scary as it is, I know He’s speaking to those who are hiding their sin behind an oppressive veil of superiority and condemnation.

Lord, I sure don’t want that.

Michelangelo's God's Creation of Adam, Sistene Chapel, (1510)The Vatican


God’s ultimate motive is love, not condemnation. He wants us to be as free as can be. He doesn’t want us to suffer sin's temporary or terminal consequences. Whatever our spiritual hygiene program, Jesus invites us to step into His revealing and purifying love light, even though it may at first burn to see who we really are.

We can live in grateful freedom that Christ stands in the gap.

If God is exposing sin in you, don't scurry like a roach. Don't hide. Run to Jesus, who is ready to forgive you and restore you. He loves you!


Father, please shine your light into our lives to reveal where we’ve gone astray. Grant us the courage and support to promptly respond and return to the safety of Your sheepfold, knowing you want only what’s best for us. Forgive, restore, and renew us in Christ’s name. Thank You. I love You. Amen.💖

Thanks bunches! Love, Isabella

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