TARA MIKES

As your spiritual eyes are unblinded by His light, you can begin to truly understand why you're here. How has knowing Christ’s light helped you understand and navigate why you are here?

Before I knew who Christ was, before I had a deeply intimate and trusting relationship with Him, I lived my life trying understand this very question; how could I define myself in this ever-evolving and mutinous world? Creating my identity, attaining my vision of who I was meant to be, became a deeply personal blood-sport. Every new job, each connection to a new person, each physical creation I made was a building block in the creation of myself. The funny thing about self-construction is the inherent discord between what you think it will be like and the shaking uncertainty of what it actually is. When I felt responsible for creating my own identity, failures were heartbreaking. Perfectionism was mandatory because faults meant the dissolution of my life—they exposed the frailty of my self-made walls.

God has begun to use me in places that I would have never anticipated. So many of the blessings I have received from God come in the form of bearing witness to the rejuvenation of other people’s lives; He has been using my testimony to speak to others’ hearts long before I yielded and became compliant in His works. The Light of God has transformed my life into a world pre-dominated by the needs of others—this is the reason I am here and the reason we are all here.

The way He shovels glories and gifts on my life used to create a deep sense of guilt in my heart, because I didn’t feel worthy, but now that I am coming out on the other side, already reborn in Christ, it feels like a gift. I am secure in Him. I am bathed in His light. 

God speaks His light into us, displaying His glory, but it’s not always so easy to invite God to shed light into those dark places. Is there a memorable time that you have really let God into the dark places in your own life? What impact did that have on you and others around you?

I sat tucked away in the back of the Villian Warehouse one year ago this week, in an effort to conceal my raw flesh, to muffle my heart which beat so loudly I could hardly hear the words of the sermon that night. But I could feel Him; I could hear Him. There were questions of baptism swirling in the waters of my head, churning around and around, mixing with the dark feeling that I could never be clean enough to enter the depths. In that string of moments, nothing else was real other than the unity of me and my Heavenly Father. In what felt simultaneously like a dream and the most concrete reality I had ever known, I responded to my Father's call; I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior, crashing into a swell of tears at His feet. Allowing myself to be bare and broken before Him, for the first time in my life, I felt secure. 

That night, Pastor Josh prayed over me, telling me that God loved me and had plans for me, and that he saw my baptism within the year. I was overwhelmed, unable to make rational sense of what I had experienced but rested in the assurance that I knew it to be true. The year that followed was marked by more miracles of the Lord than I could ever relay, from the mundane to the truly majestic. There has been a marked difference in pain compared to my previous life—I have accepted the suffering, acknowledged it as the garden work of my loving Master, weeding my heart and at times breaking the ground, digging into the depths to uproot toxic trees that have shrouded the forest of my soul.

A few weeks back, I took the Christian Essentials class. God began reminding me of His promises, how He will clean house and cast light onto our darkness, and that we can and must be reborn in Him in order to see the world as it truly is, through His eyes. Samuel asked us all to write down the single most plaguing characteristic of our spirit, the thing that we cannot in our own strength overcome or rectify. With tears blurring my vision, I forced myself to acknowledge my most shameful truth, the nature of my soul as it stood: Inability to Love. When Samuel continued, he reminded us that in the name of Jesus Christ, the old will die away, no longer a part of us, and the new will be reborn in His image. As he guided us to write down next to our weakness a counterbalance, the exact opposite of our flaw made perfect in the image of Jesus, I found my hand scrawl, Agape. A self-sacrificing love, a love that is constant regardless of circumstance—the love of God for His children. I rested in the understanding that my Father had me, and that He was going to make me whole now that I had given Him everything. 

The next week, 11 months after it was prophesied, I was baptized at Rockaway Beach. My dad drove in from Columbus and stood in the water by my side. He helped to lower me into the water as my earthly father, then raised me back up as my brother in Christ. I could have never dreamt of orchestrating a more beautiful moment. I stood radiant in the light of God and knew my life was forever changed. 

The world grapples with darkness—we are surrounded by it, immersed in a culture that prefers to keep things hidden in the dark. Are there ever times where you are afraid of His light because of how you think He will respond to your darkness? How do you work through this?

I was very afraid of letting God into my darkest places. It felt like those parts of my life were so void of light that, exposing them to God wouldn’t bring clarity in the darkness, but rather the darkness would engulf the light of God. I was afraid to expose God to my pain because, whether I was able to admit it at the time or not, I did not believe His light could permeate the depths of my blackness and pain. I didn’t think He was big enough to take it on. I felt like God would be overtaken and I would lose Him altogether.

I find that the only way to confront the misgivings my mind creates about the nature of God and who I must be in order to be in relationship with Him (that I’m too broken, too undeserving, too far gone, expecting too much out of Him) is by combating with what I know to be true. When accepting the gift of His redeeming grace is too big for me, I turn instead to the word and focus on one quality of His character. I meditate on His wisdom or His kindness—something that is irrefutable to even non-Christians who read the Bible—and I find that this leads me to thanksgiving, to worship, to praise, and ultimately settles in my soul the questions of doubt. 

How would you encourage someone who is really battling to embrace God’s light, either because they don’t understand it or are afraid of it?

I would tell someone struggling that without vulnerability we are marrying ourselves to a life void of deep emotions, be that exhaustive pain or euphoric joy—if we don’t take risks of any kind, we limit the scope of our human experience.

Paul tells us in the book of Ephesians [5:11-16], “It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see.” When you’re in the thick of it, it’s so difficult to see that you’re forcing yourself into the darkness, your shame harboring your true self from the eyes of your brothers and sisters in Christ. But if you can find the strength to tear off the mask from your heart, He will reveal to you His true design, and you will revel in the beauty of your face in the light of Christ. He makes you beautiful. His light does not create something out of thin air but simply illuminates the glory of who you were created to be.

If we pursue God first, we will be given all things that we need. We must not misconstrue the pursuit of the knowledge of God with the pursuit of Him—in a relationship with us, as our Father. Our husband. Our friend. Our advisor. Our teacher. Our king.