Saturday, September 10, 2011

You, Me, Light Inside

"You have a light," she said, pointing to the candle in my hand. "Like this, light inside. You, me, light inside. Life. Together."  The woman struggled for the right English words. She gestured to her heart, then her head, and said a word in Spanish. "A light inside," she repeated. "You a pretty girl. You, me, light inside. Some -- no light. Something wrong. They cry, need, need something. Life. Life, light, together."

Still smiling, the woman took the remaining candle and walked away. I turned, baffled. I had not expected to meet a Spanish-speaking mystic in the laundry aisle of the grocery store, but some mornings just turn out that way.

All day I have been full of such joy and such gratitude that if Waco had mountains I would climb one and shout the words I rather awkwardly called after my laundry-aisle prophet: "God bless you!"

Home should be a place that fills us with grace, and I am full, my friends, so grateful I can't go to sleep until I tell someone about this beautiful day.

Jenn and I left for the store shortly after seven this morning, blaring Mumford & Sons as we drove down Bosque Boulevard.  The fierce music rang like a prophecy for our golden Texas morning ("awake, my soul!"), and together we filled our cart full of good things: peppers, sweet potatoes, milk. We saw a mother with a small child and an elderly man, pushing his buggy in a suit and tie. His basket was filled with apples, peaches, bananas, and pears.

Returning home, I made a cup of tea, prayed, and wrote a letter to a friend. By nine I was at work on my dissertation, and I spent the rest of the morning reading, writing, pondering ideas about faith, literature, and nature. Jenn sat in the living room, hard at work on her wedding planning business. The morning was cool, and we kept the door open to the wind and the light.

This afternoon I met with my "dissertation club," which includes two fellow graduate students who are at a similar point in their writing. Steve, Jeff and I exchanged chapters last week, and we spent three hours providing questions, criticisms, suggestions, and connections for one another. Their comments for my chapter were insightful and practical, pointed and encouraging. We dwelt in one another's ideas, tested and pushed and sharpened the good we all found in each text.  What a privilege, I thought, to call these brilliant men my colleagues and friends. What a help, to receive their honest and thoughtful comments. What a comfort, to discuss the perils of the job search, the joys of our vocation, and the future of our discipline. In addition to our dissertations, we discussed job applications, cover letters, interviews, and bigger questions of higher education.  These things have driven me to stress and tears on many Friday nights, but the more we talked, the more I felt that light within me growing.

I left that good gathering for another--homemade pizza with a giddy group of friends--then went home to a house where people cared about my day and were glad to see me.

I don't know that words on a screen can communicate the deep and dazzling joy of this day--all the more dazzling because I expected none of it. I anticipated the gentle peace of an ordinary Friday, perhaps the satisfaction of a task or two completed. I did not expect a stranger to call out the light within me. I did not expect friends to name that light and to demand that I be brave because of it.

Perhaps they know that all too often, I forget.

I am writing this because I wonder if you, too, forget or do not know of such a light. I am writing because I overwhelmed by the grace of  food, music, friends, colleagues, work, rest. All today's good things have grown from my life in Christ, my participation in his body, the Church: the trip to the store with a friend-turned-housemate; the meeting with other young scholars who take their work--and mine--seriously; a dinner with friends whose laughter helps me forget myself.

I am writing this because I wonder if you, like me, have been sad and lonely. I want to tell you that lonely seasons can pass. They may linger for months or even years, but then, one day, the wind changes, the clouds scatter, and the light surprises your weary expectations.

I am writing this because I love this city and season of my life, yet I know that in the next year I may move to another city, state, or even country.  At this time next year, I may need this day to stand as an emblem of hope, a testament to grace.

This has been a good day, my friends. I pray it has been for you, too.

You, me, light inside. Life. Together.


  1. A wonderful day indeed. A stranger possesses a unique potential to surprise and delight maybe because there is any expectations. Reminds me of my encounter with a few ladies in DC last weekend. One lady was gifting her bed to another lady as I walked by. I noticed them struggling to load it inside a SUV so I paused, not knowing if they would take help from a stranger, and as I started to walk again they asked me if I'd help, so I did. We a little grunting we got the mattress in the SUV and I tied the box spring to its roof— it was a good thing I was there because they only knew how to tie a knot for shoes! Once the furniture was secured, I continued my journey. I don't how much this relates to your story, now that I've written it. I'll leave it here though.

  2. Thanks again, Bethany. You've made me feel good this morning!

  3. Passport's theme this coming summer is "Life Together" (yes, they're borrowing a page from Bonhoeffer - what an amazing camp!). These reflections fit nicely.