On Tuesday, I met a young man from Iraq named Noor.
Before I could even sit down and speak with him I was moved by his presence. His laugh reached my ears from across the room and I found myself smiling simply because of his amazing energy. He seemed so happy, like his burdens were light and his hope and aspirations for the future were high.
I asked him what the meaning behind his name was and he told me that it meant light. He went on to explain that his full name is Noordaleen and that it means the light that comes from religion. He made sure to explain that it didn't just mean the light that comes from the Muslim religion but rather all religions.
Does that name affect you as much as it affected me?
The light that comes from all religion. What a powerful and strong name.
In the age that we live in you often hear about the dangers of religion. You hear about terrorist attacks, funeral protests, hateful politicians and more but you rarely hear about someone talking about the light. The light that comes from someone believing in something bigger than themselves.
I really struggle with the word religion, if I'm being completely honest. I'm always the first person to tell someone that I'm a Christian but I'm not religious. That I believe in a relationship with Christ that involves the deepest parts of who I am as a person. But the questions that I find myself pondering right now are, is relationship the rejection of religion? Or is relationship the expansion of religion?
Perspective is a tricky thing but depending on how we use it, it can either cast a dark shadow on religion or brighten it and make it easier to understand. It's difficult for me to even write this but when I think about religion the same way I think about faith and Noor, I realize that religion is not the absence of light.
Religion is the belief and worship of God or gods. Relationship to me takes that a step further by adding the reverence, love, devotion and service to God. Religion I think can be the first steps but it's through relationship that we get a view of the full staircase.
Jesus says in John 8:12 that he is the light of the world. So when I spoke to Noor and he told me that his name meant light I was overwhelmed by the love of Christ and how he reveals himself in the people around us.
The Lord has been working so heavily in my life in regards to my quick judgments of others. One of those judgments has definitely been related to other belief systems. Before I get misunderstood let me say that I do believe that God's word is truth and that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. With that being said I don't think that closed minds win hearts and the Lord is teaching me how to guard my mind with truth whilst being open to the opinions and thoughts of others.
This year, I've been very intentional about deepening my relationship with the father. Through the deepening of that relationship I feel very strongly right now that the Lord is guiding me to unpack the baggage that I have in regards to religion and to explore the root of it.What a journey that will be.
I wonder if Noor's parents realized what they were doing when they gave him such a thought provoking and hope filled name. Noordaleen, the light that comes from religion.