April 27, 2005

The Streetlight

Before I left on my trip last week, I wrote the following article for our church newsletter, which was mailed yesterday, and which people are starting to receive in their homes today. I have more to add, but first, the article:

Forty five seconds. That's how long the light stays on. After forty-five seconds, the light goes out, silently, and the street is plunged into darkness. Wait about a minute, and you'll see it start to glow, faintly at first, then gradually brighter, until finally the light flickers back on; and when it does, the cycle begins again. Forty-five seconds of light, and then another period of darkness.

I know this, because through the windows of my house, I can see the light, shining down on Pacific Avenue from the top of the pole next to Fairview Church; but that's all I know. I don't know why it turns on and off and on and off, all night long. I suspect it has something to do with overheating. Three years ago, that pole was struck by lightning, which could also be a factor, although I think I remember that light going off and on prior to that. It's all by itself, the only streetlight for at least a mile, standing tall like a lone candle shining in the darkness ... but only for forty-five seconds.

"Let your light shine before others." It's what Jesus instructs his followers (Matthew 5:16). The problem is, a lot of us think we can shine like that streetlight, forty-five seconds at a time. We go to church once a week (or month or year), and that brief time, we think, will be enough light to last us. While we're there, in worship, we remember how important God is to us, but when we leave, we forget. We let our lights shine, but then we let them go out.

What would happen, say, if my cat were to cross Pacific Avenue at night, and a car comes down the road, just as the light goes out? It's not a pretty picture. Disaster is likely.

Jesus wants us to let our light shine not just one hour a day, or one day a week, but 24/7, all year long. Jesus wants us to let our light shine when we're at work, at rest, at play, and at church. If you turn your light on and off, you leave room for disaster. Instead, let your light shine with a constant, steady glow.

The next time you drive by the church at night, notice whether the streetlight is shining or dark. Then notice whether the light of Jesus is shining in you.

Today, the day this article is arriving in people's mailboxes, I look out my window and notice that the light is not going on and off. It's on, and its light is steady; and it's the middle of the day! Trying to figure out the significance of this, I feel like Steve Martin in the movie L.A. Story, reading the message on the electric freeway sign and wondering, "What does it mean?" I can't wait to see what that lone streetlight does when night falls. I might even go stand under it, looking up, with my arms out wide.

Three things are too wonderful for me
four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of the streetlight outside my window.

1 comment:

reverendmother said...

It means, Sing Do Wa Diddy.

Great post.