[updated]a light unto my path

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

Blessed John Newman

The Mission of My Life

God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.

John Henry Newman