The Light Within
A few years ago, I wrote down a line from a poem by the poet Jericho Brown, and as I was reading through my scattered notes this morning, I saw it again with fresh eyes, and it inspired me:
Candles are romantic because we understand shadows.
I absolutely loved that line when I wrote it down, but I didn't fully understand why it resonated with me so much until today. It's strange how that sometimes works---how you read something, and the truth doesn't land on you for a while.
But today, that line made sense to me in a way I hadn't felt before.
When I read it, I pictured a candle burning on a table in a dark room and how the light flickered, alternately bringing parts of the room into view and then letting them fall again into shadow.
We are drawn to the space around candles because the light shines brighter near the source. This is the "romance" of the candle, the intimate, cozy feeling that it brings as we gather around it.
But that doesn't mean we can't occasionally see what's in the shadows.
The truth is, we know what's in those shadows; we remember the room's layout, where the doors are, the things that can be tripped over, the art we've hung on the walls, and more.
In the same way, we understand the shadows in our own souls. We know where our fears are hiding, we know the doubts that can trip us, and we remember the signs and symbols of where we've failed and fallen short.
And so we try desperately to draw near the light to step away from the shadows and find intimacy with the Divine, with one another, anything but the loneliness and dread of living in darkness.
Ironically, most of us never realize that if we would merely embrace what Jesus said about us being "the light of the world," just as He is, we have the potential to carry our light wherever we go.
But we hide our own light, afraid of what it might reveal about us--not wanting to see what's in our shadows because we don't want to confront what's there.
What makes candles romantic is more than just the flicker, the intimacy, and the way we need to get close to fully experience the light they bring; it's how elemental they are.
There's just something about the light of a flame, right? And this elemental connection to candlelight is not that dissimilar to the light that we bear within us. When we get this, it can change everything for us.
Because when we truly internalize the truth of the inner light that Jesus spoke of, we soon find that we not only have a deeper connection to the Spirit of God within us, but we also draw others to us, who respond to the way we "light up a room."
And we also have the potential to take away the dread of our shadows by letting what they hide to see the light of day.
As we shed light on the world around us, we may discover that what was hidden in the shadows we knew and feared is not nearly as powerful and dreadful as we imagined.
May you discover the light within you and let that light shine. May you find peace knowing that your shadows are a part of you, but they don't tell your whole story. May you find the strength to be whole and congruent and let the light remove your dread.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.