This week, we are invited to practice (and sing along, of course), “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”
From the Jesus’ affirmation, “You are the light of the world.” Adding, “Let your light shine.”
Let. As is, allow. As in, the light is already there.
Jesus never said, “Create the light.” He never said, “Make the light.” He never even said, “Be good at light shining.”
He simply told us to get out of the way, and let the light that is already there, spill.
So. Instead of light shining classes, let us give ourselves the gift of embracing the light that is alive and well inside… the light of compassion, kindness, empathy, inclusion and hope.
Granted, much of that light may be “under a bushel”, but it is still there, nonetheless. And this is the power: when we know that the light is here, now, we embrace (and are fueled by) the permission to be present. Yes.
And yet, even as we hear the affirmation, and dance to the invigorating melody, there’s a part of us that worries (frets, wonders) if we really have what it takes. We wonder if we are enough. You know, I’d let my light shine if I had my act together, or my ducks in a row (add your own favorite idiom).
Personally, I know what it is like to say that I believe something, but doubt if I have what it takes to live up to it.
Which is why I love this story…
Once, the great Hassidic leader, Zusia, came to his followers. His eyes were red with tears, and his face was pale with fear. “Zusia, what’s the matter?”
“The other day, I had a vision of the question that the angels will ask me about my life.”
The followers were puzzled. “Zusia, you are pious. You are scholarly and humble. You have helped so many of us. What question about your life could be so terrifying that you would be frightened to answer it?”
Zusia turned his gaze to heaven. “I have learned that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Moses, leading your people out of slavery?'”
His followers persisted. “So, what will they ask you?”
“They will say to me, ‘Zusia, there was only one thing that no power of heaven or earth could have prevented you from becoming.’ They will say, ‘Zusia, Zusia, why were you not Zusia?'”
Yes, what Zusia forget, and what I forget, is that the light shines—the light is alive and well—from the inside. Indeed… the gift of enough.
Let your light shine.
Let me rephrase… let your light shine (spill), without asking, “Is it enough?”
Or without asking, “Do I have what it takes?”
This allure of (temptation for) perfection weighs us down, and misses the point that gifts of grace are given in small and imperfect ways. And yet, these small gifts of grace make a really, really big difference.
So. Where do we begin to spill light in our broken world?
We begin in the small world, the one right in front of us.
Rear Admiral Thornton Miller Chief was the Chaplain at Normandy in WWII. Someone asked him, “Up and down the beach, with the shells going everywhere, why did you do that?”
“Because I’m a minister.”
“But didn’t you ask if they were Catholic or Protestant or Jew?”
“If you’re a minister, the only question you ask is, ‘Can I help you?'”
Here’s the deal: We are all wounded healers (where our wounds cease to be a source of shame and become a source of healing). No, this is not a strategy. This is a fact. It spills from those parts of our life that have been broken open, from those parts of us flawed and imperfect. So. What if this is not about accepting imperfection as some kind of divine teaching moment? What if the gift is in the inimitability of our humanity? When we embrace the light that is already inside, we live from the power of sufficiency, and let it spill.
I am (quite literally) here today because of people who let light—kindness, compassion, gentleness, tenderness, empathy, healing—spill into my life, at times when bleakness was too much to carry.
Let us remember… these “little things” along the way are the gifts of light and grace.
Our invitation to pause again to say thank you. Albert Schweitzer’s reminder, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
And I continue to write Sabbath Moment because I want to live in our real world, with a soft heart. Where hope is still real. I want to create places for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion, kindness and healing… for light spilling… spaces where we are refueled to make a difference.
Some days, it helps me to just sit and read a Mary Oliver poem.
To calm my spirit and remind me that grace is real.
And that the light still shines.
When I am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
This little light of mine. True, my light does dim. It does hide under a bushel. And yes, we doubt whether the light we have, is enough. And then, all of our attention is focused on what seems to be missing. And not on what is alive and well.
For Mary Oliver, the trees are her sanctuary. They are her rekindlers of the flame.
The permission to pause.
The permission to stay awhile.
The permission to be replenished.
Where (or who) are those rekindlers for you?
“You are the light of the world. Let your light shine.”
But here’s the deal: Letting your light shine (or spill) is not a race, or contest, or beauty pageant.
In other words, we are invited to embrace the gift of the light, that is alive and well inside (even though it may not be easy to “see”). And invited to recognize that light in those around us.
Here’s the good news: The light spills grace and restoration and healing to (and from) those around us. Meaning that the impact and inspiration here, is about “we”… and not “I”. A calming reminder that we are on this journey together.
And an invitation to pause and say thank you. Albert Schweitzer’s reminder, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
I can so resonate with this from Native American elder Steven Charleston, “Like a bird with a broken wing I have known days when I felt I would never fly again, never rise up into the bright sunshine, never glide through the clean air of open fields and somber mountains, but be trapped forever by the window, looking out to a reality I could no longer enjoy. I know some of you know what I mean. But then, without any reason other than love, a strong but gentle hand held me safe and mended my brokenness, healed me and set me free, whole once more. Now I fly in thanksgiving and celebration, my heart forever grateful for a mercy I did not deserve.” (Steven is an author, and retired Episcopal bishop of Alaska.)
Spilled light heals. And we let our light shine.
I’m on my way to Southern California, spending the weekend at Mary and Joseph Retreat Center. A time for emotional and spiritual hydration.
Prayer for our week…
God sends light to us this day
and invites us to meet one another in this light.
Light breaks forth like the dawn,
drawing us into relationship with one another.
Humble yourselves for the worship of God,
that you may be empowered to serve.
God calls us to trust with steady hearts,
and to serve with righteous compassion.
Seek not for lofty words of wisdom,
but for powerful demonstrations of God’s way.
God makes us to be salt of the earth
and lights to show God’s works to the world.
(Thank you, re-worship.blogspot)
Photo… “My favorite summer flower (Black Eyed Susan). This is at a swimming pool near my house. I grew up on a farm and they grew wild there and that’s why I love them.” Mona Priest