I shopped for light bulbs the other day. What. An. Ordeal. Can I just tell you how confusing it was? And how expensive? Oh, for the days of a ninety-nine cent incandescent bulb and the only choice you had to make was the wattage.
Edison would shake his head at it all. Can you imagine his face if he could hear us tell Alexa to turn on the lights?
The absolute miracle of a light bulb barely registers a mention on my daily gratitude list, Counting It ALL Joy. Not until the bulb burns out or the power goes off. I don’t really appreciate the light until it’s dark.I don't really appreciate the light until it's dark. Click To Tweet
I’ve experienced days (weeks, months) of darkness, the jet black, can’t see your hands in front of your face kind. I’ve groped around, blindly searching for a switch to illuminate a way out of the deep despair.
Matthew 4:16 says, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light.”
I’d seen and experienced that life-giving light of Christ, but there were times both the light and the life were MIA. Just when I needed them the most.
I needed a floodlight, but honestly? I’d have been satisfied with the flicker of a twinkle light.
So it’s ironic (and somewhat of a perplexity) that my favorite picture which hangs on our wall is a piece of prophetic, graphic art with two words:
This original piece of art was a going-away gift to Roger and I, from Jim Gilbert, a friend of ours, when we moved from Ohio to California in 1978. We were stunned by his generosity and by our friend’s talent. But the thing that made it really special was the personal nature of the gift. In his eyes, WE were the bright people. The light bulbs represented US.
He’s off – She’s on
She’s off – He’s on
At the time, Jim had no idea of the prophetic nature of his gift. It was a stunning addition to our home, but it became such an accurate portrayal of our marriage. My husband and I rarely seemed to be “on” at the same time. After 46 years of marriage, I realize that’s actually pretty normal, but it was discouraging back then.
The biggest frustration was the spiritual disparity we so often experienced. My inner light glowed when I walked in my gifts and calling but at the same time he felt distant from the Lord. Or he’d be all gung-ho about a big new ministry and I was still wounded from the last ministry fiasco.
Grace for the “off” times
Roger always seemed to have grace for my “off” times, but I confess I had less grace for his. My propensity was to tell him to just snap out of it; trust me, that never works.
My “off” times were primarily fear-based; anxiety-ridden foreboding about what was behind the black curtain of the future. That’s also why I became anxious when he was “off.”
I thought life was supposed to be a colorful Light-Brite toy, and when it wasn’t (or when I wasn’t), I felt guilty and ashamed and like I was less than a Christian. Or else I’d feel prideful about my shininess and judge everyone else, walking around with my stash of light bulbs, handing them out to my dim friends and family.
That went over big.
One night I dreamed that I was alone in a pitch black room. It was claustrophobic and terrifying. In desperation, I walked until I felt a perimeter wall and then followed that wall, my hand searching for a door to escape. Nothing. Finally, my hand touched something soft and warm. I felt fabric, flesh. I knew it was Jesus and instantly woke up with the reassurance that HE was the door, He was the Way, He was the LIGHT.
Light bulb lessons
It’s taken me years to realize that not only can I not fix anybody (including myself) it’s not my job. I can barely keep my own lamp lit, let alone see to yours.
On my own I can barely see my feet in front of me. I’ve also learned that light is a lot like manna. You can’t hoard it. The Lord gives us just the light we need for the moment. I’ve strained my eyes trying to see what’s ahead.
Sometimes I get a sense of the future; once in a rare while, I’ve had a vision, but mostly I seem to exist in a kind of just- enough-light-to-see-five-feet-in-front-of-me tension.
Bright People has traveled across the country with us multiple times and it’s found a home in every location we lived. But there was one time when its home was a closet because it was just too painful for me to look at day in and day out. We weren’t bright people then; neither of us. I prayed for two years asking God to rekindle our flame.Like the delicate filaments of a light bulb, life is fragile. Click To Tweet
We’re both on and shining now but it took Roger’s light being nearly snuffed out for it to happen. Two years ago, he flat-lined for 26 minutes after he experienced a pulmonary embolism. What a miracle it is that he is still here, his light shining brighter than ever before!
The wake-up call of his near death experience was truly a light bulb moment. While I still have breath, I want to be on, to shine, to be a “bright person.”
Walking in the light
Oswald Chambers said that to “walk in the light” means that everything that is of the darkness actually drives me closer to the center of the light.
And so, in one of the darkest seasons of my life, I came downstairs every morning, lit a candle and read and prayed every single verse I could find about light.
- The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5
- Light arises in the darkness for the upright. Ps 112:4
- Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105
- The people living in darkness have seen a great light Matthew 4:16
- I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12
- The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? Psalm 27:1
- He wraps himself in light as with a garment Psalm 104:1
Hemingway was right when he penned, “We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” Our word “lumen” was originally used in anatomy for “an opening or passageway.” Our brokenness makes an opening for the light.
The darkness of my situation didn’t necessarily dissipate, but as those verses burrowed their way into my broken heart, I gradually began to radiate and reflect His light. I became luminous. True illumination is an inside job.
Another light bulb moment
It may be that I’ve been looking that at our Bright People picture wrong all these years. The on and off, thing – that’s just life. Maybe it’s more about what we do with the light we have than worrying about our lack of it.
We’re not supposed to hoard that light; we’re supposed to share it. It’s like those Christmas Eve candlelight services where we light each other‘s candles. One person’s flame sparks another’s and another’s until the darkened room is engulfed in holy tongues of fire.
If you are walking in the light but your spouse isn’t or your children aren’t; your boss isn’t or your next door neighbors aren’t, you can’t allow their darkness to dim your lamp. You’re not responsible for their light; your responsibility is to stay plugged into your power source. And maybe don’t turn your spotlight on their problems; pray for them to have higher wattage.
Don't turn your spotlight on other people's problems; pray for them to have higher wattage. Click To Tweet
Study, write down those verses like I did and pray them, for yourself and for others. I promise you, the darkness will eventually be dispelled. And when that light starts to peek in, remember the Source. It’s the light of Christ that’s shining, not you. You’re a reflection.
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all 1 John 1:5
Even during the darkest period of my life, when it felt like I was walking in darkness, I wasn’t. I know that because I still sought God. The light of Christ in me caused me to seek God. He was seeking me, too. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pleasant. But the lights were never truly off. That was the lie of the enemy.
… a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish… Is 42:3
Anglican priest Ben Sternke says: “Walking in the light has nothing to do with perfect behavior and everything to do with being known.”
Ah, what freedom to know that I don’t have to be perfect, that He knows my fear of the dark, that He knows me and loves me just as I am. And He loves my spouse the same way.
So, this little light of mine? By the grace of God, I’m gonna’ let it shine.