It was 1945, a big and tough year in a line of extremely difficult years for a globe that had been squeezed in the clutches of world war.
Death and destruction had been the order of the day for way too many days. Whether it’s on a school playground or an entire world, when bullies are taking over, something beyond “a good talking to” (during which the bullies rally their forces, take more territory, and laugh at the talkers) finally has to be undertaken; if not, tyranny wins, freedom loses, and the weak are crushed by the cruel as the dangerously naive, blind to humanity’s fallen nature, wring their hands, weep, and wonder why.
In The Last Lion, their fine book on Winston Churchill, William Manchester and Paul Reid share a 1945 anecdote from Mollie Panter-Downes, longtime London correspondent for The New Yorker.
Victory in Europe would be joyfully declared on May 8, but old habits were dying hard. On May 7, “a predawn thunderstorm broke over London” with such a realistic “imitation of the blitz” (Hitler’s bombs raining down on London) that “many Londoners started awake and reached for the bedside torch” (flashlight) they’d become accustomed to keeping in their blacked-out bedrooms for use during each night’s raid.
“Nerves were still raw” even though Hitler’s V-2 rockets had been grounded since late March. The blackout had been lifted “after 2,061 consecutive nights of darkness.” London’s streetlights, now allowed, “failed to flare” when “the switch was thrown,” and though “most Londoners took down their heavy blackout curtains (which they converted to black clothes and funeral coverings,) they pulled their old curtains closed out of habit.”
One five-year-old girl who had never known any other kind of life, asked her mother, “It’s lovely to let out the light, but how shall we keep out the dark?”
It was a great question then and now. Hitler, the deranged “little corporal” and mass murderer was finally dead. Without the Russians, the war could not have been won, but they were led by Joseph Stalin, himself a monster who would kill more people even than Hitler. In May 1945, the Cold War was looming, dark and dreadful.
Plenty of dark times still oppress this world and threaten to engulf our lives. “How shall we keep out the dark?”
Well, we can be sure that God’s light lives in and warms our hearts even in dark times.
We can claim Christ’s promise to live in his people, affirming John’s words: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).
We can refuse to trust life, a priceless gift but as literally impersonal as a rock and with no more ability to care for us. We can choose to trust God, the Author of life, the stable Rock always worthy of our trust, the Father who loves us completely. He created light, and he is far stronger than darkness.
In him, we can safely open the curtains.
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Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.