Updated: Dec 1, 2021
Dr. RB McFeeEmail: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Be the light that fills someone’s darkness”
Tattoo on ‘Robert’s’ arm
The other day I ran into someone I knew (let’s call him ‘Robert’) and saw written on his arm as a tattoo the above quotation, which as you can imagine, sparked an interesting conversation. Not surprisingly he is a kind, and talented man.
“Be the light that fills someone’s darkness” triggered a bunch of powerful thoughts, too…..
At the end of the day this is what Jesus wants us to do as His people of faith – face the darkness, help someone in their time of darkness, and counter it with the Light of Christ that flows through each of us; what Quakers have referred to as our “inner Light,” and others attribute to as a Divine Light.
Jesus knew it wasn’t easy to be sunny in a stormy world. He knew it wasn’t easy to sometimes be the lone light in what often seems a vastly dark world. But a single, tiny candle at sea can be seen at lengthy distance. Just one light can pierce the darkness….
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord Who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18
Ever see the light from a light house way out to sea? It is both a welcome sight, and impressive one. Especially when you consider the light bulb isn’t that big. You would be amazed at how small the actual light bulbs are that illuminate the light houses along the coastlines here and abroad. Tiny sparks that light up vast expanses of dark water on foggy nights.
So how do those tiny lights brighten the way to safety for mariners? By using powerful reflectors – force multipliers if you will. Much of the illumination results from powerful mirrors. Same is true for some of the best telescopes – it is the quality of the reflector. The shiny mirrors reflect and amplify the light, intensifying the strength and visibility.
And that’s the same effect that occurs in our partnership between God and us! As reflectors of His Love and Light; only God’s Light is not small; it is enough to change the hearts and minds of all who see and feel and accept it into their darkness, and become open to His transforming Warmth and Power.
That is what God intends for us to be, too. His Force multipliers, His mirrors, reflectors that amplify the Light each of us has been given, to illuminate the way for others, fostering God’s Love-Light to transform. Think of Paul on the road to Damascus. Think of your own journey where God met you on along the way.
The question a weary world wonders about Christians…..where is God’s love in an ever increasingly darkening, polarized world? And what is the quality of the reflector of Jesus’ love? Can Christians still pierce the darkness? Are they? Will they?
The answer to all of those questions is “yes,” although in many cases we have put our light under a bushel. Every day wonderful acts of love are occurring; sometimes well known, sometimes known only to God and the ones involved.
But the world needs more of Jesus’ candles in the world shining brightly.
We are God’s candles, God’s ambassadors. But we have a choice – we can reflect or withhold what He has placed in us. Thankfully, we are also not lone emissaries in a vast foreign land. We have others who also have committed to Christ.
Think of you and a fellow Christian, coreligionists sharing the journey, sharing the mission….
When one candle touches another, neither is diminished. Instead the illumination multiplies, and the darkness is transformed the more light that is shared. We are that way as well. We are transformed when we reflect Christ’s Love, His Light with others. In the process we make someone else’s life brighter, and the happiness they feel, even if transitory, fills us, empowers us, warms us, as well.
Even lighthouses often have two light sources. Whether solo or with others, we can be as Jesus states….
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but put it on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.”
Matthew 5: 14 – 16 KJV
This very concept is existential to our foundation of faith as Christians. Our job is to flood the darkness with His Light as shared with and given to each of us as Jesus’ ambassadors.
“Brighten up the world by reflecting Who I am.”
Quote from Jesus Calling – Enjoying peace in His Presence Devotional
Often we want to “brighten up the world,” but either don’t know how, allow life to intrude, sidetracking us from the lofty goal of being “the light that fills someone’s darkness,” or get overwhelmed by the magnitude of need surrounding us, to the point where paralysis by analysis overtakes even our best intentions.
As an aside, I shouldn’t need to remind anyone of the place that is lined with good intentions! But for those uninitiated, consider Dante’s Inferno.
Point being God has imbued each of us with His Light. What we choose to do with it is part of our free will.
Just looking at the problems surrounding us can be a daunting task, long before the first sleeves are rolled up, and initial steps are taken to fix something.
And you would be right to quietly ask me “Something? How about many things?”
That’s fair enough. But through the Holy Spirit we have been given a set of gifts, talents, and things we normally gravitate to. For some it is homelessness or human trafficking. For others it might be helping folks learn English as a second language. For others it is watching after little children to enable their parents to work. For some it is mentoring young people. The key is to pick something – someone or something where you can reflect God’s Love, and make a difference, even if it is one person at a time.
Reminds me of two stories (several versions exist) taught to me a very long time ago….
Here’s the first one….
Once upon a time a little boy was hanging out with his grandfather. The older gentleman gave his grandson a puzzle to put together. Unbeknownst to the child, it was an image of the world. As the boy began sorting the various pieces, the phone rang, and the grandfather left the room. A few minutes later the man returned, only to his amazement the puzzle had been completed.
Both proud and astonished he asked the boy how did you complete it so quickly? The boy responded by saying on the other side was a drawing of a man. When I put the man together, the world came together.
For me the moral of the story – help one person, and you have changed the world.
Here’s the second story….
A grandfather was taking his young grandson to the beach after a violent storm. In the aftermath they encountered hundreds of starfish stranded on the sand, the waves too far out to reclaim them. The little boy picked up one of the starfish and threw it back into the water. The grandfather, upon seeing the starfish tossed back, and looking around at the plight of so many other starfish, asked the child ”what difference did that make?” To which the grandson replied “it made a big difference to that one.”
Too often we think we have to apply our skills to the vast problem to make a big difference.
Maybe we should better define ‘what is a big difference? ‘
Is it a cup of coffee and a donut proffered to an elderly person sitting alone midday, and in need of companionship and the kind gift of time? Is it creating, or just participating in a 5k walk or fundraiser of some kind, serving to raise awareness for an important issue? Is it baking cookies for the annual CCUMC Christmas Fair? Or helping to bake apple pies for the church fundraiser? Is it preparing sandwiches for the Worcester Fellowship homeless outreach? Is it a well placed call or greeting card to someone you haven’t seen at church, or who is a shut in, or recently suffered a setback – job, loss of loved one, health issue? Or is it a smile to a stranger for no other reason than because we are all fellow travelers to the grave, to go Dickens on you.
Regardless what challenge you and the Holy Spirit see, there will be one that aligns with who God made you to be, and the talents given.
And maybe you need to find someone to help you discern what or how. Perhaps someone who has walked a path you would like to try. Perhaps someone who has initiated or participated in something you would like to start or be part of.
Regardless how you start…..just start! Take the plunge! Go for it.
Are we “the light of the world,” as Jesus says in the Gospels, and celebrated in the near iconic song from Godspell? Are we a mirror reflecting God’s love to others, or are we a bushel – not sharing or spreading or revealing much of who we are, in spite of the value and power of what God has put into us, and hopes we will share?
Sometimes the challenges are great, and the resources are few. Sometimes we don’t know where to begin. As a shy person, been there done that, got the T shirt. Being shy sometimes means putting a light under a bushel. But I’ve come to accept being shy can also be an asset in helping others. Often shy people are analytic and problem solvers. I know from whence I speak. So we find other candles to join in the challenges we seek to remedy, or find ways to share whatever gifts God has given.
Point is, whoever you are, whatever you have, which makes you different from me, or others, we ALL as Christians share a few Powerful things in common – God’s Love, Christ’s Light, and the Holy Spirit within us. What more do we need?
So start small. Maybe start with a smile! You would be amazed at how many really loving and kind people don’t routinely smile, and when doing so, usually in response to someone else’s. From a medical perspective, smiles and laughter actually help your immune system, light up your face, and reflect a positive energy to others…..being a mirror, not a bushel.
Maybe there is someone, or some issue you want to help with. I am certain if you are looking at them, they are sending thoughts into the world looking for help.
To be sure you might need to tap into others for their skills, resources, ideas, or camaraderie.
It all comes down to….”Are you a mirror or a bushel?” Will you be the grandfather and look at all the starfish with sadness, paralyzed by the vastness of the problem, or be the rescuer, the problem solver, the little boy who picks one up, and throws it back into the sea?
During the Holocaust a few courageous families across Europe risked their lives to take in a fleeing Jew. Did they make a difference? None of them thought they were stopping the horrors of mechanized genocide. But they knew for the life of one person they made a difference, were a mirror, not a bushel. And together, they formed a connection of powerful lighthouses illuminating an otherwise vast dark continent. They were powerful reflectors of Jesus’ Love.
Today we face the same question as each of those rescuers from the 1940’s….
“Are you a mirror or a bushel?”