The Shadow and Its Flame

After two days recovering from a post-Thanksgiving meltdown, I feel compelled to offer this:

If you are feeling as though the work you have done to foster the Light is failing, open up your calendar. Look at your plans for this week and steal 2 hours from yourself. With your 2 stolen hours, find a water cooler or a firepit; find a window corner in a bookstore or coffee shop; find a lakeshore or a park bench along a bluff. Plant yourself there. Just show up. Resist the urge to open your phone.

Refuse to be a helper. Be a person instead. Be interested and worried and angry and unsure. Decide not to have a single answer, nor to share a single opinion. If you can convince other people to join you there, great, but if you can’t, don’t worry. Simply show up. If you have to be busy, write a letter to yourself or to a loved one or to that one high school buddy who always made you laugh.

Next, somewhere in that 2 hours, try to find compassion for the Shadow. It is a weak and a twisted thing. It is actually as isolated and alone as you may feel. The Shadow is a howl in nothingness, chewing on its own shackled self in desperation and in fear. It only thinks it is real, and its realness is only as substantial as the deference we choose to give to its forms. If you can, find it in yourself to feel real sorrow for the Shadow and its reflection flickering through so much of the life in this world.

Chances are, 2 hours won’t last long enough for you to find that sorrow. And maybe right now is not the time to find that sorrow. In fact, maybe right now you feel so low and heavy and lost and defeated that all you want from your stolen 2 hours is to be buried in it until Spring. If this is the case, then I offer you this instead:

Take heart. There is only a Shadow because you are shining a Light. Maybe your Light isn’t enough to fill every pit and crater, every sudden sinkhole of despair, but so what? It is still pouring out, even in fits and dribbles, into some of them. It is, if nothing else, creating a soft and simple pool into which any lost soul can pause and look, or dip and drink.

And what better work have we ever been about than this?

 

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Psalm 72:1-19

16thstreetbaptistchurch“Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor. May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen. (NRSV )

In this season of festivity and gift-giving, of parties, purchases, and family celebration, may we be mindful of peace. May we look for connections between economic distress and injustice; between poverty and war; between need and slavery; between famine and greed; and between oppression and fear.  May we look for ways, not only to lift others from a moment of hunger, but to end the conditions which make starvation possible.  May we look for ways, not only to lift spirits for a season, but to free spirits from the chains which weigh them down.  May we look for ways, not only to celebrate the good news of Christ’s birth, but to share that good news with all whom we meet-a Gospel of peace, freedom, compassion, generosity, goodwill, justice, and joy.