At 9:00 pm a couple of Tuesdays ago, I was standing in the front field outside St. Martin’s in the Fields Episcopal Church in Columbia, SC, with about one hundred people. We were all holding flashlights as we sang and prayed for the victims of gun violence and racism. We were gathered to hold up the Light and to pray for the Light to be seen and made known. We prayed for our own prejudices to be healed and we repented of our own racism. Mostly, we wanted to encourage each other to be the Light in this broken and hurting world. As a Christian, I believe I am called to bring the Light, to be a vessel of God’s light in the world.
If we listen to the news media, we hear that the world is falling apart. And we are told over and over and over again, 24-hours a day, that the world is falling apart. That the new norm is daily gun violence. That the new norm is hostile and divisive language among people. That the new norm is leaders who don’t have the qualifications to be leaders. That the new norm is disrespect and hatred and discord. There is truth to all of this. But it is a little “t” truth. Not the big “T” Truth. It is not the whole picture.
Be the Light in this broken and hurting world
The big “T” truth for me is that there is always hope for change, and that God will continue to act through us and in us in order to make manifest a more loving, just, and merciful world. And so I have a plea to make to you today. I want you to look for the Light. Really notice where it is. And then join it! I want you to choose hope in humanity. I want you to choose love. And the second part of that plea is that I want you to act on that intention. Every day, I want you to do something that you can claim as an act of hope, or courage, or an act of love. I would even encourage you to keep a daily journal of your intentional acts of love and hope. In short, I want you to BE THE LIGHT.
Why am I asking you to do this? Here’s why:
The tragedies of the past few years are devastating and real. And, most of these big tragedies have been committed by individuals or groups of very deviant but dedicated individuals. And you know what? There are millions of us, millions of people who are Light Bearers, who are loving and kind and compassionate and generous and ethical and concerned. And we have to get busier and get our message out there. It doesn’t make good news, but it makes for a good society, a good country and a good life.
I am also pleading with you to look for the Light and be the Light because we have to stop depending on our institutions to solve all our problems. Our institutions are all so broken. Our polarized and angry government, our inflated and confusing medical, pharmaceutical, and insurance industries, our precarious financial system, our underfunded educational system, our histrionic media—there is such brokenness in our institutions. And while we must fight for change within these systems, that change is SLOW, like turning an enormous ocean liner. And the world needs some quick change right now. And quick change usually comes from the bottom up. Grass-roots change. So WE HAVE TO BE THE LIGHT. WE HAVE TO COME TOGETHER AND OVER-POWER THE DARKNESS.
Amidst the horrific events in Orlando, Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Dallas, Nice, and Munich, there were so many acts of Light. There were people helping people, there were people praying with people, there were people protecting other people. There have been people peacefully protesting, people writing letters to their legislators, people delivering gifts of support and people gathering to pray. We usually don’t hear about the Light in the midst of these tragedies. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Have you ever seen The Nanny or Dr. Phil when a camera is put up in a home and the people get to see how they really act? They are always startled and they find themselves thinking, “Ouch, is that really me? Is that how I sound, what I said, how I act?” In this same way, video is rapidly changing our culture. It is hard to deny racism when we see a video of it in action. It is hard to deny the terror of assault weapons when we see 11 people killed in seconds by an illegally obtained weapon. It is hard to deny the problems with an open carry system when the police on video tell us that that made the situation worse, not better. Video makes it harder to hold on to our system of denial. In a positive way, with video we also get to witness the amazing acts of courage, compassion, respect, kindness, and sacrifice that happen even more often than these terrible acts of violence. We get to witness people being the Light during the darkest of times. We must not lose sight of all the ways that people are being the Light. And we must never stop trying to be a vessel of the Light.
In what ways could you be a Light Bearer today? Tomorrow? Everyday? We all have different ways of bringing the Light to the world but bring it we must. In one of my favorite pieces of prose, Marianne Williamson says this:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” from her book Return to Love: Reflections on a Course in Miracles.
We are born to be Light Bearers, my Friends. Make this messy life more marvelous by being one.
The featured image today is from an original painting that hangs in my office. Camilla Armstrong is the artist. I bought this painting in 2006 when I purchased my office building, and I hung it at the top of the stairs. Every time I walk up the stairs, which is many times a day, I look at the picture as a reminder to be a Bearer of the Light. It is an icon for me.