I want to share with you a story. A story that happened to me several years ago when we lived in Ireland. But despite the distance in time, the lesson of that night has stuck with me and shaped the way I live since. And I’ve recently needed a reminder of that lesson, so I thought you might need one as well.
It was the middle of December. The sun rose after 8 am and set fully by 4:30 pm. It was consistently cold, rainy and dark.
When I got up each morning and looked out my windows, I saw black. Pitch. Black. Not another soul seemed to be awake at the same time, and I felt utterly alone.
The darkness overwhelmed me one morning week as I stood in our sitting room, surrounded by silence and darkness. What oftentimes was meant to bring ease of rest, and time of peaceful solitude had shifted into an unbearable weight, a cloak of lead, pressing in on me. Suffocating me.
I uttered a prayer, but it, too, seemed swallowed up by the abyss. I stood there for what seemed an eternity paralyzed by the sheer weight of it.
We lived in a rural area that was clothed in unspeakable beauty. Mountains, lakes, rivers, the ocean, bogland all merged together to create a landscape like none other. The homes and businesses there are built around the land, rather than carving through the land. Homes are allowed space to breathe and neighbors can often be more than 100 yards apart. It could be freeing. And it could be paralyzing.
In the dark, bleak of winter, it could feel like a life-sentence of solitary confinement. You find yourself surrounded by people at times, but somehow still utterly alone.
Then it happened.
Driving home late one night in the deafening darkness. (yes, deafening) In the distance, a blue twinkle caught my eye. A moment later in the other direction, red, yellow and orange danced brilliantly in the night. A quick scan of the horizon revealed half a dozen such displays. Christmas lights. More than that – signs of life. And it was as if I finally had reached the surface of the water and emerged, gasping. My lungs finally able to fill with air. A release. I’m not alone.
Never before had so simple a thing as a strand of Christmas lights brought such relief to my spirit.
“…let your light shine in front of others. Then they will see the good things you do. And they will praise your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
For some reason, I’ve always thought of the instructions in this verse as something sort of passive. If Christ is in your heart, as long as you don’t intentionally try to cover Him up or hide Him, His light will shine and others will know there’s something different about you.
Now, however, I read that verse entirely differently. The only reason the drive home that night wasn’t quite as lonely as it usually was, is that someone took the effort to turn on the lights. They had to do something to prove their light was there.
How many other people, Jesus followers or not, are standing in their proverbial living room, paralyzed by the weight of darkness surrounding them? How many feel so utterly alone, surrounded by throngs of people and yet shrouded in the abyss of loneliness? If I – someone who has the miraculous Light of the World abiding within my very being – can feel the weight of it, how much more might someone who doesn’t know of His freeing power be paralyzed by it?
I cannot sit idly by and watch those around me pass in a blur, hoping that my sheer existence will bring them some modicum of hope, prompting them to ask me what’s so different.
No. I must offer that hope.
I must actively reach out in support, encouragement, and service to those who have been placed in my path.
It’s not enough to have the Light – I must hang it up, turn it on, and offer it freely, abundantly and actively to those standing with me in the abyss.
Will you turn your light on with me? Let’s get out there and shine.
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