I had to take down all the old lights.
It was weeks ago. Since that time, every occasion upon which the light switches have been snapped to the on position has seen the lighting of a bare bulb hanging from the electrical box in the ceiling.
It’s not beautiful.
It is effective. Light has filled the room each time, the fleeing shadows routed by their perpetual enemy. There is illumination—in which to paint, to replace trim, to sweep up the dust.
It’s not a pretty light, though, the glare hurting the eyes and the bare bulb next to the ceiling drawing notice instantly to its spartan simplicity.
We make do.
Today though—today, I hung the old fixtures back up.
Yes, you read that right. The old fixtures.
I wondered about that, too. Weeks ago, when I pulled them down, I wondered aloud if they should be thrown in the bin, unwanted relics of years past. It seemed they might be obsolete. Better, more attractive lighting could be contrived, with the aid of a dollar or two and the local home store.
The Lovely Lady was certain. The old fixtures would go back up. Her confidence that they had many years of usefulness left wasn’t shared by her husband.
I stared at the ugly pieces in my hands, ceramic mounts covered in multiple layers of chalky white ceiling paint. The metal pieces were no better, the painters from years past having preferred to slap the paint-laden brush along them, rather than removing them from their boxes to protect the copper and chrome surfaces.
There was no hope.
I tried to talk the Lovely Lady out of her madness. She would not be dissuaded.
I will admit, I put it down to her heritage, years of training in the art of salvaging and repurposing. I assumed she simply wanted to save money. (She has kept this old spendthrift solvent for nearly forty years now, you know.)
Today, I rehung the light fixtures. If I hadn’t taken them down myself, I would have testified that the magical lady had replaced those ugly, worn-out pieces of ceramic, glass, and metal with new instruments of light-making.
The things of beauty I reinstalled today show no sign of fatigue, nor any of dilapidation. They glisten and gleam, glass and brass shining even before the power begins to make the bulbs emit their energy.
I am undone.
It is an argument I am happy to have lost. (Don’t tell her I said that, or I’ll never be able to hold my head up near her again.)
The Lovely Lady knew those light fixtures. They are the same devices which lit up the room in which she slept in a crib—the same ones which threw shadows against the wall as she and her sister played with dolls into the night—the same ones that cast their helpful light on her geometry homework and then her music as she practiced on the shiny silver flute.
All those years ago, she knew them. They are old friends that lit the night in her childhood. It would have taken more than an unbelieving husband to convince her to part with them so summarily.
I attached wires and tightened nuts and screws this afternoon, marveling at the change, the newness of the ancient things. And, when all was prepared and the bulbs inserted, I flipped the wall switch.
Just like the first time it happened, seventy years ago, the shadows bolted for the corners and warm clear light flooded the newly painted walls.
And, the Master said, “No one lights a lamp and then puts in under a basket, but it is placed at the highest place in the house so everyone is in the light.” (Matthew 5:15)
We are the light of the world.
I gotta tell you, I’m in worse shape than those old fixtures were when they were removed weeks ago. Dirty, crusty, and covered with layers of grime and paint, some of it put there by me, and some by others who didn’t like the look of me just hanging around.
I’m a mess. And, then some.
I can just hear the conversation in heaven, can’t you? You know, like in the days of Job.
Satan has crept into the throne room and waited his turn. His wheedling, shrill voice cracks the silence at last.
God, you know that old worn-out, dirty thing—that…that Paul Phillips thing? He’s clearly not doing You any good. How about you just dispose of him? I’ll take him. You know—one man’s trash, and all that?
And, then a strong, quiet voice speaks. No, not the Father’s. The Savior says the words.
He’s mine. Bought and paid for, long ago. The light of the world, that one is. Mine. There’s no trash here for you, you old deceiver. Move on!
Who would know better the worth of the creature than the One who is Creator?
How would the One who stood and said, gazing at creation, new-made, “This is good,” ever stand and say, “Time to get rid of that trash?”
He knows us. He knows what we’re made of. (Psalm 103:14)
He’s not afraid of a little dust.
Clean and shining, we stand before our Creator. His light—shining in the world.
In this place, that cannot, for long, stand the brilliance of His uncovered presence, we are His lamps to drive away the shadows.
Where once was nothing more than grunge, along with layers of gunk, we stand in His image, showing Him to the world.
Time to get out of the baskets.
For the Light of the World, we will be lights to the world.
But hear my brethren in their darkling fright!
Hearten my lamp that it may shine abroad
Then will they cry-Lo, there is something bright!
Who kindled it if not the shining God?
(From Let Your Light So Shine ~ George MacDonald ~ Scottish author/poet ~ 1824-1905
You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
(Matthew 5:14-16 ~ NLT ~ Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. All rights reserved.)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.