February 18, 2021
Little Lights When the World Has Gone Dark
February 18, 2021
By Joy Jordan-Lake
It was the only part of the job I despised: being shaken awake in the middle of the night by a ten-year-old girl with a flashlight trained on my face. I was the third generation of my family to be a camper and then a counselor at a children’s camp in Brevard, North Carolina. My favorite cabin to lead was Dancing Waters, which sat only feet from a wide, babbling brook nestled up in the woods. A magical place, it smelled wonderfully of rhododendron and pine straw and moss—and also faintly of mildew. Dancing Waters was nothing but bare wood and bunk beds and screened windows, a place where children told stories and played cards and wrote poems and learned how gifted they were in ways they had never guessed.
But did I mention there was no bathhouse attached?
At night, the mountain air around my camp counselor’s cot was always chilly and damp, with the cocoon of my blankets so warm and my body exhausted. I murmured words of comfort to whichever child had awakened me this time—but words that always included suggestions she could wait until morning to visit the bathhouse that lay a good fifty feet down a path in the cold and dark: I bet you can wait, Janie, sweetie. Don’t you think so? It’s just the stream that’s making you feel . . . Are you sure? Because I bet you could wait if you really . . . .
Eventually, with some coaxing and that blasted flashlight full in my face, I’d drag myself from the cocoon, grope for my own light, and stumble out the door. Typically, the little girl who’d might’ve hiked fearlessly all day in the mountains with black bears and rattlesnakes, or scored a soccer goal against a Brazilian male counselor goalie, or learned to post on a trotting quarter horse would suddenly need to hold my hand and huddle close up against me as we felt our way together over roots and rocks and the possible skunk or raccoon or bear out for a stroll in the path.
Our Scripture passages for today assure us that our God is light itself “in whom there is no darkness at all” And I’m old enough to testify from experience that this is indeed true, that the God who is the Love That Will Not Let Us Go never, ever abandons us to grope our way all alone.
I’m also old enough to know how dark some seasons of a life journey can be, both in my own life and that of the people I love and walk alongside. The loss and despair. The betrayal and hurt. The illness or anxiety or fear that can shut out our ability to make out anything at all through that thick, encroaching darkness that can threaten to overcome light completely. That can feel like the end.
It’s why so much of Scripture has this steady drumbeat of pleading, don’t you think? The guide me, please, I feel lost; teach me—I’m scared; show me the path and walk with me—I feel alone.
So this Lenten season I’m grateful not only for God’s light as I walk—with my sometimes still stumbling over the roots in the path, sometimes still flailing, falling flat on my face. But I’m also grateful for the people who’ve gotten up out of their comfort to walk alongside me, to be reflectors of God’s love and warmth and welcome when I was having trouble seeing anything but the gloom and feeling anything but the cold. And despite my slowness to act some days, I’m grateful—so grateful—for the seasons when I’ve gotten to be a small light or an open hand for somebody else. The longer I live, the more I’m struck with how not welcoming, how not kind, how not full of light our world can be. We, the people of God, are to be different.
Thank you, all-loving, all-welcoming God, for being the Light that shines in our deepest darkness, and for never leaving us to walk all alone.