This Little Light of Mine

This Little Light of Mine December 31, 2014

2014 has been a tumultuous year to say the least.  Publicly, some amazing things have happened and some tragic things.  Globally, we have seen wars and disease, seemingly on the rise.  At the same time, global poverty is on the decline, pointing to some progress made by those working so hard to end extreme global poverty (down by 50% in less than 20 years)*. Domestically, we have seen deaths from police violence against people of color, seemingly without consequence, which is a most disturbing thing indeed.  But, at the same time, overall violent crime is down, pieces of the economy are recovering, gas prices are down, teen pregnancy is down, and people are coming together in response to some of the tragedies of the past year (and years) like they haven’t in decades.  Personally, I have said farewell to two loves of my life, one a person and the other a passion.  Yet, I have realized this has opened up for me more time to spend with my daughter and more time to invest in the ministries that I feel called to take part in.

Several weeks ago, after a particularly frustrating month, I was bemoaning the 2014 that had been and eagerly awaiting the beginning of 2015 in the apartment of a few friends.  Just as my griping was nearing it’s zenith, my friend (and fellow blogger) Leigh Finnegan chimed in.  “Every year has a mix of good and bad in it….”  Now anyone else saying these words would have been dismissed as I sat in my wallowing, and I wouldn’t have given them second thought.  But I’ve known Leigh since she arrived at seminary, and I know she didn’t say these words lightly.  Last year, she lost her father, an experience that is never easy, but that is particularly hard in your mid 20s.  I watched her struggle with grief, and all that comes with the loss of a parent, and yet she was bold enough to tell me, perhaps one of the few people in my life who could, “Every year has a mix of good and bad in it, no one year is better than any other.”

I’ve taken great care to look, in the days that have followed that exchange, for all the blessings that I have in my life.  I’ve taken stock of my privilege, and examined what I must do in light of this (I’ll be writing about that in January).  I’ve looked at the things that have ended in this year, like plans of marriage, leading worship at school (one of my passions); and I’ve looked at the things that have begun, like new friendships, renewed ministry, and my involvement in the Transform Network.  And I’ve taken time to, as the songwriter says, “Count [my] blessings, name them one by one. Count [my] many blessings see what God has done.”  I remember that at the end of the day, for me, no matter how bad it gets, I have a daughter and a God that love me, the former who gives great hugs and drool-filled kisses on the cheek.

The world has and continues to have a tension of light and darkness in it, a mix of good and bad, a space where we live in the tension of faith and doubt.  Good things happen every day, but sadly, especially for some, bad things happen too, and often seem to outweigh the good.  For the mothers and fathers of children slain by violence, for the children orphaned by the Ebola virus, for families of those lost to war, missing airplanes, natural disasters, and other tragedies, it may seem like the darkness is spreading and winning.  But I remember, as did millions of Christians this Christmas, that light has entered the world in Christ.  John 1:5 says “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  When light shines, darkness is removed.

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:5 (NIV)
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5 (NIV)

I’ve loved the imagery of light and darkness for years, because it’s something that we can experience so easily.  Go into a dark room, a closet or whatever you’ve got, turn out any lights (turn off your cell phone) and take in the darkness, the way that your sense of sight, which for many of us is primary, is rendered totally useless.  Experience the heightening of your other senses as your body adapts to your surroundings.  Then take a flashlight, a match, lighter, or if need be your phone, and shed some light on your surroundings.  A match or a lighter work best, in my opinion, because you can’t suddenly see everything in the whole room, but just a bit, as the light begins to break through the darkness.  As more light is added, more is seen, and less darkness is present.  The brighter the light, or the more lights that shine in the darkness, the more our sight returns and the more we see what is around us.  It is so with the light of Christ, which dwells within everyone who believes and doubts, and that which has been planted deep within every human, as we all bear the image of God from our creation.  As bearers of light gather, less and less darkness is present, for light extinguishes darkness.

In times of trouble, people all over the world light candles.  2014 has seen more than it’s fair share of candle lights, in places of worship, in homes, in streets, and in fields.  In 2015, there will, without doubt, be moments of darkness, for you, for our neighbors, for this world, and for me.  But there will also be moments of bright light.  Moreover, each of us has light within us that we are called to shine in the world.  I lost my grandmother in 2010, at the end of my deployment to Iraq.  At her funeral, which I was able to attend, we closed singing one of her favorite songs “This Little Light of Mine.” (She was a school teacher, another story for 2015.)  The words of that simple song are:

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

My prayer is that in the days, weeks, and years to come, whenever and wherever possible, you will let your light shine.  There is darkness around us, but the darkness is unable to overcome light, so may lights gather in darkness, in your life and in this world.  2014 was not what I thought it would be, and I have no idea where 2015 will lead me.  But my resolution for the year to come is simple: This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.  I pray, in times of darkness and joy, that light will shine in you and around you.

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