O Gracious Light: When Light and Darkness Find Each Other

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house (Matthew 5:14-15).???

Emily is returning home tomorrow, she has been gone since this past Saturday morning when she left for Ohio. Her trip was made up of two parts, she visited her mom and pops in Ohio, and then on Tuesday she flew out to Chicago to spend time with her sister and brother. From what it sounds like, it was a great trip; not only did she enjoy the concentrated time with her folks, but it has been a great time for her to visit the wonderful city of Chicago and kick it with her siblings.

As I look back through the week, I see some things that seemed worthwhile to reflect upon. Though her
leaving isn’t anywhere as near as painful as it must be for Nathan and his wife
(I won’t even try to compare our situations), I have found not only
that I missed her, but that I missed her in unexpected ways.

The Unexpected Holes
Usually I rush home from work, whether riding my bike the five miles or trying to catch the 5:04 train out of Memorial Park in Pasadena, I try my hardest to get home as soon as possible; this past week I’ve stayed at work or hung out in Pasadena with no real urgency to get home. In fact I didn’t really look forward to it at all. I also found, once I did arrive home, that it wasn’t so bad making dinner (yes I cooked myself real food!) or washing up the dishes, what wasn’t fun was afterwards when the night began to calm down. When everything slowed to an almost soft hush, that’s when I realized: “I am alone.??? Its amazing how, as a married man, I have grown so accustomed to rarely being along and didn’t really like the feeling. I guess another unexpected hole from my wife’s absence that snuck up on me was the non-existent workday email chatter. A typical workday will involve us bouncing at least two or three emails back and forth talking about dinner or making plans for the weekend; receiving no emails this past week was another thing that lead me to realize something was missing.

There are other things I missed, many things in fact, but its also important to note that I do think its good to have time apart once in awhile. I have had time and space to think not only about Emily and the little things I love about her, but also other things, things like vocation, identity and relationships. While there isn’t enough time to go into those things here, I am trying to be succinct for once, something small opened up to me this evening.

When Darkness Meets Light
I decided to ride my bike home from small group tonight because of how lovely it was outside and because I knew that the quietness would do me some good. We had a great talk this evening about what religious identity means, and if it means anything at all; I had lots to think about (I will touch on this soon). But as I rode my bike home, in the darkness (I had both my front and rear lights, and my helmet on mom!) I soaked in the beauty of a few simple things: the wind blowing in my face and across my ears, the sound of the gears shifting, and quietness of the streets I rode on. I felt as though I could have been riding on Market Ave or 8th street back in ol’ Canton. I thought about the easy of which I could switch gears to keep a steady pace, and how such a simple thing is such a marvelous and complex invention. I thought about how, in the middle of one of the busiest cities in America, there are moments of silence where the wind blowing against your ears is the only sound. I also thought about how I felt safer riding in the dark with my lights blinking like strobe-lights than I do in the day.

The light is much more visible in the darkness than it is in the day, it is the night that causes us to long for light, its the privation of food or water that makes us hungry and thirst, its loneliness that causes us to remember the importance (and need for) companionship. The longing for one thing, fosters the longing for another, or it helps us to savor that thing/person for which we hungered and thirsted. So these moments of night can not only be peaceful but can also give us a new found appreciation for the day.

One of my favorite prayers comes from the “Order for Evening Worship??? in the Common Book of Prayer, its very Quakerish name is “O Gracious Light.???

O Gracious Light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O Son of God, O Giver of Life, and to be glorified through all the worlds.

For me the with the night comes the reflection of the day, Christ brings light into all the unexpecting dark corners.

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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

4 thoughts on “O Gracious Light: When Light and Darkness Find Each Other”

  1. When I biked daily, I would ride down to Whittier Narrows via the San Gabriel River and would pass these old caballeros taking a break from running the horses at the rodeo and fishing. If I bothered to look up above eye-level I could see, at the same time, the 605 freeway jammed with stop and go traffic. Somewhere in between was me – riding nowhere in particular but still riding.

    I wish there were worship songs written now that praised God for the caballeros in the morning and the joy of avoiding the 605 by riding the river trail. That would touch me more than anything in “God of Wonders.”

  2. Chris, thanks for your comment. I love the imagery and have experienced similar sites on my ride – it is envigorating to be able to avoid the mad rush of commuting we find ourselves in. And your idea for worship songs about God and the caballeros would be amazing. Shouldn’t worship be written out of those kinds of experiences? It would be wonderful if our worshipping bodies wrote contextualized worship music, and did other forms of contextual worship art; we would find ourselves drawn in more through our daily life.

  3. Wess – I experience the same sort of “epiphany” when I’m running. The cool-down after the run is also a meditative experience for me. I have found that as I grow theologically and philosophically these little experiences mean all that much more.

    I also can totally relate about being married. I have become so attached to my wife it is unbelievable. I used to be seriously independent, even a loner. Now I don’t know how I would get through a whole week without my wife. I become even more attached as the years go on. I suppose this is why those couples who are together for 40-50 years follow each other out of this world so closely when one passes.

  4. Shawn thanks for the comment. I too was very independent (still am at times) but when I met Emily I was glad to do life differently; now I can’t imagine life without Emily, and for now I don’t try too. Life is so much more sweet and understandable with her around.

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