It’s furtively Catholic, my bedside table. There’s all these candles and a little angel figurine and a wooden cross I painted at a Phi Lamb retreat once. There is also a bracelet with a world charm on it and a prayer book and a stack of cards and letters from people I adore. Also there is a bag full of pictures of ICM kids. Rather glaringly out of place, there is also an alarm clock and an owl figurine I got from my sister in law. Every night I read out loud from the book and light the candles.
I light one for the ICM kids.
I light one for my family.
I light one for the patients I see at work, and for their families.
I light one for the things people have asked me to pray for (and if you’ve asked, I keep a list. Because I’m learning to be better at this)
But I light the last one a little differently. I light it after I blow all the other ones out, when it’s dark. And I always pray the same prayer, mostly.
“For everybody I love who is stumbling around in the dark. For when there is no way. For the days we are fighting our way back to believing. For the days we aren’t. For when the darkness is heavy. Just that you would shine a little light. That you would speak it into our hearts.”
And then I read part of Psalm 139 about the darkness not being dark to God.
Look, I know this is eccentric and maybe you think it’s creepy. And it’s not like I think this little flame is going to put any light in your life. But it’s just…
Last night. When I prayed this last night I was crying (I mean what else is new?) because we’re a mess. Because the darkness looks big and the light looks small. Because my heart breaks when my friends are hurting and I’m not there, and I can’t be there, and everything I can do or say from here seems so much less helpful than what I’d like to do, which is sit on my old couch, paint our nails, watch How I Met Your Mother, and bake you brownies. And then give you an awkward hug and we could go dangle our feet in the pool and I could tell you that God’s still here, and until you see Him I’m here, too. But I can’t.
This morning I woke up and realized that I hadn’t put the candle out right. It was just barely glowing. I know, fire hazard.
But it stayed lit. I wanted you to know that. I wanted you to know that when I couldn’t be there or say the right thing or bridge the gap…I don’t know. But it feels like God was there, watching this candle, getting you through this night.
We don’t always know how it got so dark. We don’t always get some five point plan to recovery, a list of rules and checklists to bring the lights back on. It’s not always our fault (and sometimes it is). But to be honest, when the lights have gone out it’s hard to care about why they’re gone.
I wanted you to know that you can borrow this light for a bit. That it isn’t mine, anyway. In my own dark there were these flashes and flickers of everyone else’s light all around me, and I took them and I held them close to my heart, and it started to glow again. And you can take as much as you need.
Because we’re Christ for one another. And I tend it even more carefully, because I’m saving some for you.