June 1, 2011
Candles in the Day
That was a judgment on my part which just would not do with Yahweh. As the rolling miles of asphalt marked my journey home, the matter continued to heckle me. Why, I wondered, does so much of the world seem to be a dark environment? God isn’t present in my workplace, but neither is he present in my neighborhood, or anywhere else outside the Church. This was for me both distressing on the deepest level and a minor vexation.
Then, for a moment, the road disappeared.
Instead of the dingy tailgate of the Ford pickup ahead, I saw what appeared to be a scene from a fairytale. Its primary focus was a frantic little man running about with a lantern. He rushed from house to house in the village, violently bursting in upon the inhabitants. Each home was filled with deep shadows, and the people there sat in darkness. I understood that they had been in this darkness for a long time. In it they lived and moved and had their being. But when the minimal man broke in with his lantern the shadows disappeared. Suddenly the house would overflow with life and light and color. Dull blacks and grays became the vibrant hues of the rainbow. The reactions of the families differed from house to house. Some were overjoyed, others bewildered, and still others appalled and disgusted. Yet the man’s reaction never varied. After flinging back the door, he would step in with just a foot and raise his lantern high. Nervous, his eyes devoured the contents of the room.
“There is no light here! There is no light! It is only darkness!” he would cry, then flee, slamming the door behind him, leaving the people in gloom once again.
How funny, I thought, that this jester (for now I saw him to be) could be so mistaken! What a fool, to carry a burning lantern wherever he went, yet continually suppose himself to be in darkness! What exactly was he looking for? Did he not know that he brought the light with him?
Suddenly the vision fell away. I was back in my car on the turnpike, going home. The Spirit’s conviction fell on my own spirit like a hammer. Could I really be guilty of the same carelessness? The same folly? Yet how often have I condemned the hearts and homes of those around me for their darkness, never recognizing that I bear the presence of God wherever I go.
Yes, it is true that for one traveling alone the night can seem oppressive, even with a torch. Yet I have never known a darkness so thick that it could smother flame. Shadow itself is immaterial. Rather, it is light which has warmth and substance. Though to the bearer a candle appears but feeble resistance against the eternal night, to those in darkness it is a piercing beacon visible from an ocean away. The thing about candles is, they are only visible at all where shadows are present. They bring light to no one when held against the noonday sun.
I find that as a Christian, I have often sought comfort from the proximity of other light-bearers. It is encouraging not to feel alone. I think many others feel the same way. Yet what purpose does our light serve if it only shines in the company of those who share it? Rather than bringing light to the world, we have decided to be a light unto ourselves. We have become nothing but candles in the day, serving no purpose and saving no souls. What is it that we fear?
The trip home continued and I saw the fool again. This time he had made his way past the darkened windows of the shops, taverns, and houses, up to a little building with a pointed roof. He breathed a sigh of relief when the doors swung open to reveal a massive gathering of people, all holding lanterns to their chests. They welcomed him with smiles and embraces as he took his place among them. Then the doors of the building were shut, closing the light inside. The people sang of joy and hope, and the town remained in darkness.