Light A Candle By Being One


“Faith burns brightest when it is a shared light.”

Great things are more often discovered than invented. If we want to make something great of our lives it may involve less of our making and more of our waking up and seeing.

When I was a kid, I used to get up very early. My mother said it was because I was afraid I would miss something. I must still be worried about what I might miss because I still get up early. The early bird gets the worm. I make myself coffee.

I start my day by writing in the pre-dawn darkness and as a result love to take mid-day naps. To make sure I can sleep in the middle of the day, I often tie a bandana across my eyes. I’m sure I’m a sight. But then, I can’t see myself. Like a child pulling the covers over their head, this darkness is my own. What we can’t see or won’t see is often a way we call up comfort by dialing darkness.

“The true division of humanity is between those who live in light and those who live in darkness,” wrote Victor Hugo in his novel Les Miserables. And this true enough. But what is also true is Paul Simon’s reminder that: “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.” In brief then, a man who says he sees the light may still be a soul in the dark. And any one who wakes in the darkness can be a source of light.

This is a time of year when parents press their kids into cars to cruise the night and look for lights. Christmas is not my religious holiday, but religiously, every year, when I was a kid, and my kids were young, we went out to check out the lights. Now that my kids are older and so am I, I can’t help but connect this time of year with an earlier time. Sometimes when you look at lights you can feel life’s encroaching darkness. And feel your heart tug backward to touch memories of a lighter time.

Faith is a light. When we can find our faith, we can lead ourselves through almost any darkness. Hanukah is the festival of lights. It is a reminder of the triumph of faith over doubt. The Hanukah Menorah, that Jews are to light at this time of year, is to be put in the window so that others can see the light. And bear witness that faith still burns. And faith burns brightest when it is a shared light.

The law in Jewish tradition is that the Hanukah Menorah cannot be used to read by or light your way. It is a light whose service has a higher purpose. That this is a season of lights is not a coincidence, except as coincidence is God’s cloak of anonymity.

We all draw our cloaks and coats tightly around us in an effort to stay warm. But on life’s journey, no matter how warmly we’re dressed, little warms us as much as having a light to head toward. When winter’s darkness envelops us it is a fire’s light as much as its warmth that warms us. Mentally, emotionally, and physically we bond light with warmth, and the holiday lights warm the soul as much as the poor soul.

When some people enter places of prayer their first act is to light a candle. Lighting candles can lead us into prayer. Light can lead us toward THE LIGHT. Any of us are bright who know we are a reflection of God’s light. So light a candle. Lighten up. Light is a work of art on the canvas of life’s darkness. If you really want to see to a man’s soul observe him attempting to put up a string of Christmas lights.

Some people believe that each of us have an aura, a surrounding ray of light emanating from us. I once had my picture taken by a person who said their camera could photograph auras. I still have the picture. It looks like a Polaroid shot that was peeled too early from the developing process. I look like the boxing promoter Don King with shocks of color shooting up out of my hair. I keep the picture tacked up on a wall to remind myself that I have an aura. And a sense of humor.

I’ve met people who say they can read auras. They say they can tell who we are and how we are doing by the light surrounding us. I don’t doubt this. Faith is visible. As is despair.

“Don’t keep your light under a bushel,” says an old American proverb and scripture tells we are to be “a light unto the nations.” None of this, however, is an excuse to put a spotlight on our selves. It is rather a reminder that most of us spend a portion of our day in the darkness of our fears, insecurities, and doubts. Even while we sleep our fears, insecurities, and doubts do not necessarily slumber. But despite days as dark as night, inside each of us there is a light. Though life doesn’t always leave on the night-light, we are each a spark struck by God, and ever soul is aglow – allowing not only our selves but others to find their way.

While we should guard our soul’s light, we must also guard the darkness, for as surely as our soul bears God’s signature, the darkness has also been paint brushed by God. Darkness is not by nature evil anymore than those who have claimed to see “the light” are always agents of light. Light is not the absence of darkness but a play staged against the darkness.

Every day is like a beautiful woman taking her time deciding what to wear, slipping from one gown into another, now in light, now in darkness. Then, dressed in stars and in the manner of a patient lover, the night languishes and listens. For the night has ears. Who among us has not talked to darkness or prayed in the night? “Hello darkness, my old friend,” sang Simon and Garfunkle, “I’ve come to talk to you again.” Indeed, darkness can be a friend. “For the night,” wrote the poet Lord Byron, “shows stars and women in a better light.” Darkness is not the absence of light but the silence in the song of light.

This is a season when we are drawn to the light. Some of us fly to Miami. Some of us fly to the bright white light of a morning skiing. Some of us fly our souls to prayer and pews. God doesn’t take credit cards but in this season almost everyone else does. Unfortunately, some of us not only don’t have anywhere to fly, we don’t even have anywhere to crawl out of the cold. In our own urge to get to the light, let us not forget those who are left in the dark. Let us light a candle by being one. Lending a light is like lending a hand. It lifts spirits. And raises ours.

One of the most memorable Hanukahs I ever spent was one when my family really didn’t have much. And we had everything because we had each other. My brother and I each got a flannel shirt that year. And one thing more. We got the memory of seeing the reflection of light in each other’s eyes as we lit candles. No matter how dark the night gets, I still cling to that reflection. “God gave us memories,” said Sir James M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan, “that we might have roses in December.”

Where we are reflects where we have been. Life does not leave us in the dark although we often do. Every season in our lives lights or dims the light on the season ahead. This season as we look out the window let us remember that a window is also a mirror; it allows us to look at the world and see ourselves.

We live in a world of mirrors. Physicists remind us that much of what we know as light is a reflection. Reflect on this. Remember what is good, and what is good within you, and in its reflection what good lies ahead.

“You’ve got to put oil in the lamp if you want the light to burn,” said Mother Theresa. Charity for others is the oil that allows faith to burn faithfully through the night. We are souls with lanterns going in search of the light. “Let others,” says an American Proverb, “light their candles from your light.”

May there be candles in your windows.
Light in your soul.

Noah benShea, Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved