I’m that person that blinds you with the high beams on a country road. Yeah. I’m sorry about that. Really, I am. I’ve just hit one too many deer in the past years and hate driving down the winding road after dark where the county doesn’t bother to put up street lights. A friend of mine suggested that I paint a tally on the side of my car – what a joker. He gave me The Deerslayer for Christmas and was quite pleased with himself. Smartass.
I’m not trying to be obnoxious; I just like to see where I’m going. The headlights illuminate the road and a little bit of the surrounding area, but then, the light just…ends. Everything beyond that clearly demarcated line remains pitch dark. In spite of my own misgivings, though, I make it home safe. I trust that the headlights illuminate enough of the road for me to drive safely, and frankly, I get the light that I need.
It’s not unlike my experience with a hesitant faith that sometimes shines like a brilliantly lit candle, and other times flickers, pathetically clinging to a wasting wick almost drowned by the wax.
That happens because I forget the source of the Light.
I can’t make the light or flip a switch and turn on the high beams no matter how much I’d like to see further down the road. But just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean the road isn’t there, and as I keep traveling along that road I get enough light to keep moving.
My faith has often been like that, and I have mistakenly claimed to have been in the dark because I was focusing on the space in the road that was out of reach. The light was always there, illuminating my path, but I wanted more. More control. More knowledge. More … more.
What I needed was more trust.
And maybe a swift kick in the backside to see the light and quit moaning about the darkness outside.
I needed to trust more. The issue of trust, of course, is a difficult one, especially for me. As a student of literature I could expound on the juxtaposition of light and darkness as powerful universal symbols. I could build upon the metaphor. I could quote scripture, and literature, and The Rolling Stones.
They would be empty words because the surrender is missing.
In order to trust more I would have to surrender my control, and that, ladies and gentlemen, runs counter to every fiber of my being. I’ve always been in control, always been in command. Always expected, even demanded, that my charges trust me to do what was best for all of us.
Oh. Well. Isn’t that a little eye-opener for me.
When I found myself consumed with the idea that I was all alone in the dark because the naked bulb hanging over my head was casting, not a safety net (though it was) but a circle beyond which lay the darkness, I focused on the unknown outside my lit perimeter.
I won’t beat myself upside the head over it, just observe that even in my darkest hour there was light and there’s something terribly, frighteningly, awe-inspiringly comforting about that.
We’re deeply into the season of Lent. For me, it is like a drive down that scary country road. The journey requires that my senses be alert – focused on what is revealed to me one piece at a time. As I cover more ground, the light shines on the pavement, illuminating the way.
I struggle to keep up with the promises I made, but God, merciful and loving, knows what I need. After my most recent confession, I received something that I jokingly call a parting gift from the kindly priest. He reached into a book – maybe a Bible or prayer book – and shared the following poem with me:
The Pillar of the Cloud
LEAD, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor pray’d that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.
~Blessed John Henry Newman
I first read that poem decades ago when I was too young in the journey to ever think about the ups and downs of life. Could that priest have known me so well in 15 minutes to have pulled out this particular poem? Surely not. It is the One who knows me so well.
I see in this poem the hope and surrender essential for growing in my faith. I see that I receive what I need, not in one fell swoop but in the increments that I can handle.
One could say I see the Light.
Totally worth bringing this video out of the combox. Thanks to Laura from The Bronzed Shoe Archives for the link
3 thoughts on “[updated]a light unto my path”
I love that poem, too. I think we sang it in choir, too, but it’s so moving simply as a poem.
Thanks for that beautiful link, Laura. One of the benefits of kids in the arts is hearing these beautiful hymns sung over the years. Absolutely lovely!
My friends’ choir in college sang a version of that poem at the close of every practice. It’s hauntingly beautiful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN7CasTzc-g