Leave the light on for me
Sunday, May 1, 2016
Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”
As T.S. Eliot’s “cruelest month” gives way to the merry month of May, the view from my room is dreary, cold and gray. Wet streaks run down the tightly closed windows. Our chickens cower in their coop as the rainy wind rushes in at them.
Because the muscles around my new knee are stiff, I am not sleeping very well. Can’t get comfortable. Last night for the umpteenth time, I got up around 3 a.m. to walk around a little and get some of the stiffness out. And I noticed again the light at the back of our neighbor Geri’s house. Always on, all night, a warm light beside her door.
Geri broke her leg last summer and recently retired, age 72, from the UIUC library system. She is from New York. We talk sometimes about religion, which she has had little use for. But she is very well read, and has a wonderful Brooklyn accent. Geri loves her garden and knows the names of both the flowers and the weeds.
She often cares for others in the neighborhood. She took a special liking to Andi as our daughter grew up, and found special books and things to give her on birthdays and graduations.
To love Jesus is to love his world and the creatures in it. Will you come and make your dwelling with Geri, Jesus? And with Margaret? And with me?
Perhaps I’m thinking about Geri’s night light because my favorite physical therapist of the present moment, Trusha, is staying at the local Motel Six and driving home to Chicago for her weekends. For 30 years Tom Bodett has told us that his favorite motel chain will leave the light on for you. Late at night, there isn’t much that matters more.
In the pain of my own nights I want to remember to leave my own light on. The quality of my mercy shapes the love I have for Jesus and for others. And this is something I am mostly powerless to manage on my own. It’s when Jesus’ love pours into me that I have something to pour out on others.
I think Geri is no more or less merciful than most of us when she’s in pain, and neither am I. C. S. Lewis said wisely, “Kindness is a quality fatally easy to attribute to ourselves on quite inadequate grounds. Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment. We think we are kind when we are only happy.”
God’s love is tough and strong, demanding and without end. God does not settle for mediocrity of any kind in his children. He loves us into wholeness, and that always involves painful stretching. But his light is always always On.
Don’t let me turn away my eyes, Lord, from the Light of love you have turned on for me, and expect for me to turn on for you, and for all the children of your world. There are no conditions put on the brightness or clarity of your light. Now thank we all, our God.