lenten journal: light


Today was Youth and Children’s Sunday at our church, which meant the children were our worship leaders. One of them, who reads quite regularly in worship, stood up to lead us in our call to worship.

Leader: We have seen the light of God
People: on high mountains of celebration and in the laughter of children.
Leader: We have seen the light of God
People: through the shadows of our sadness and fears.
Leader: We have seen the light of God
People: with eyes that have been covered, with eyes that have been opened, with eyes that have been blinded.
All: We have seen the light of God.

Light. When we use the word as a noun we’re talking about what makes things visible, a source of illumination, understanding. (Cue Hank Williams.) When we use the word as a verb it can mean illuminating or igniting. When we use it as an adjective it means of little weight, delicate, or gentle.

We have seen the light of God: illumination, igniting Spirit, lighter load.

Last night Ginger and I went to hear John David Souther sing at Duke. Many of the songs he has written are a part of the soundtrack of my life, thanks to the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt in particular. I saw him a couple of years ago in a much smaller venue in Carrboro and he sang a song I didn’t know that I hoped he would reprise last night, but he didn’t. It’s called “Little Victories.”

when I look up the sky is falling
the signs of warning clearly drawn
ao many of us here are drifting out to sea
keep my head down to go on

little victories
I think you need one
little victories

in my hometown and family circles
they seem unsure and un-empowered
oh, they don’t understand and you can’t help that
though you can love so hard, that never comes back
till you just can’t take it for one more hour

little victories
you need to win one
little victories

I know it hurt sometimes to look around
the sameness of it beats you down
and the best seems all behind
before you start

little victories
you need to win some
little victories of the heart

now as we face our uncertain future
looking on uncharted seas
we see the tear that runs along the curtain
you step right through, you stand with me

little victories
you need to win some
little victories

though it hurt sometimes to look around
blindness only keeps you down
the best may lie beyond this present part
the sky they open, the waters part

little victories
you need to win some
little victories of the heart

The song came to mind because of a response to my post on peace that came through another social media platform. A friend had shared the post and then sent me a note asking if I had seen one of the comments on it. Someone had responded with a great deal of force: “This is a lovely sentiment. But we are faced with enemies who are relentlessly savage and barbaric. Therefore, to attain peace, we must kill them without mercy before they devour the civilized world. Then we can indulge in philosophy.”

It hooked me. I wanted to write back and correct them. I wanted to show them that violence as a response to violence has never proven to be a permanent solution. I wanted to make sure they understood I wasn’t merely philosophizing. I was looking for action. And I did write something like that, but she was undeterred. In the mean time, my friend sent me a message to say the one making the comment had had a parent die only four days before. Though I still didn’t agree with her, I read her words in a different—well—light. I remembered what it felt like in the days immediately after Dad died. One of the things that made anger rise up in me was people saying, “I’m sorry for your loss.” They weren’t doing anything wrong. They meant well. They loved me and were trying to let me know. But the words hooked me. I wanted to say, “He isn’t lost; he’s dead,” not because I needed to correct them (I figured out much later), but because I was still coming to terms with him not being here.

What I came to wish for the person who had written the comment had less to do with understanding my position than it did with finding a way to lighten the load, to share their grief. Since they didn’t even know I was privy to the story, I had no way to respond, other than to take in the illumination, to learn, and to not make any more comments in the thread.

I do wish I could have sent her the song.



  1. Oh goodness, her rage came sweeping through, didn’t it? And the first thing out of someone’s mouth is seldom what they are really feeling. Thank you for pointing that out to us.

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