Friday, January 26, 2018

Let there be light

On Wednesday morning, I woke up to an odd sound coming from the street outside of our house. In truth, I didn't know where the sound was emanating from when I first heard it - is that inside the house or outside the house? I raised my head from my pillow and tilted it in several directions, like my dog does when she hears my husband call her name, trying to assess what I was hearing and why I was hearing it. It didn't sound like the heat blowing down over me. It didn't sound like the blender being fired up for morning smoothies. I got out of bed, looked out the window, and saw the truck.

Let me back up a month or so. Back in late December, I went out to walk the dog with my daughter. It was unusually dark on the street - darker than it should have been, even for an early winter night. My daughter responded to my observation with an observation of her own: "The street light is out." Well, duh. How did I not notice that? And how long had it been out? She parks her car on the driveway while my car is safely and warmly tucked away in the garage. Perhaps that's why she noticed the darkness before I did.

As we walked up the street, I made a soon forgotten "note to self" - call Duke Power to report the outage. I soon forgot. Days passed. Many days. Old lady that I am, I don't go out at night much, so I didn't notice for several more days.

Then one day I remembered. I pulled out my cell phone and called Duke Power.
I was put on hold.
For a long time.
As I waited, I thought back to the last time I had requested service on that very same light.
I didn't remember having waited so long to be helped.
Then I remembered something else: I had made the request via the internet.
I hung up and sat down in front of my computer.

I don't know about you, but I have no idea how the internet works.
I don't know how computers work.
I don't know how my cell phone works.
How is it possible that I can touch a screen on my phone and call someone thousands of miles away?
How can that someone hear their phone ring, touch their screen, and then we are looking at each other's faces? Even if they are across the ocean? How can this be?
How can I move my aging fingers across a keyboard, type a few letters, enter a few numbers and have a package arrive at my door within days, within hours? How can this be?

I remember when I was in college and MTV came into existence. You see - I'm old. Old as dirt. Anyway, I remember walking into my dorm and seeing people sitting on the couch in the living room watching MTV videos. I just shook my head and said to anyone who cared to listen, "This won't last. People are not going to want to waste their time watching music videos."

I remember when Tiger Woods first burst onto the scene as a golfer. Winning tournaments by huge margins. Blowing away the competition without as much as a strained look on his face. I also remember saying to my husband, "He's a flash in the pan. This kind of dominance won't last. It can't."

When the internet became accessible and popular for regular people like us, once again I made a meaningless and completely erroneous prediction: "This won't last. People won't want to sit in front of their computers all the time, reading things. And who will trust that they can send their personal information out into the ... I don't even know what the 'internet' is, so why would I send my personal information out into the great whatever-it-is?"

(Please don't ever buy or sell stock based on my intuition.)

Anyway, after all that wasted time on the phone, I hung up and went onto the Duke Power website and reported that there was a light out on my block. There was actually a map on the page that showed an outline of all the houses on our street and indicated where each streetlight was located. I filled out their little form, and within minutes, I received an email saying that my request had been received.

I shook my head in wonder. I've come a long way from being skeptical about the endurance of the internet, that's for sure. Certainly there are problems with web security. I still have no idea how or why it works, except that I know it does. I toss my questions and requests out into The Great Interweb and answers come back. Books appear on my doorstep. Repair people show up at my door. It's amazing. Truly a wonder.

Actually, I know that there are people out there someone who do know exactly how and why the internet works the way that it does. I am not one of those people. I live by faith. I shop by faith. I make streetlight repair requests by faith.

Here's what happened - a few days later, actually a few nights later, I looked out my window and the light was back on. I asked and it was done. Someone read my request and sent out a work order to someone else and that someone else came to my street and fixed the light. "Let there be light."

Then something odd happened. I got an email from Duke Power. I expected it to say that the repair had been completed. But it said that the repair was going to be completed within the following week. What? Literally, as I read that email, literally in the middle of reading the email, I pulled back the curtain next to my desk and peered out at the street light. On. Lit. Burning bright in the darkness of the night. Hmmm... Is someone at Duke Power confused? I could see the light myself. Once again I shook my head in wonder. I laughed at the mistimed email and went on with my evening.

Light is a strange and wondrous thing.
The sun rises every morning and sheds light over all of us and over everything.
On the stormiest days of life, the sun is hidden behind the clouds, but it is still there.
On the stormiest days of life, hope gets hidden behind the clouds, but it is still there.
The clouds clear. Eventually they clear. No matter how deep the darkness, light reappears.
The folks in Houston found that when those clouds cleared, destruction was revealed.
In Santa Barbara, California, when whose clouds cleared, there was mud everywhere. Rocks.
Homes were destroyed. Lives were lost. Roads and highways were impassable.

In our own lives, homes are lost. Lives are destroyed. Relationships become impassable.
And still I believe that there is always light on the other side of our clouds.
I know that there is pain and suffering. Death is real.
Still I believe that there is light. There is love. There is hope.
Hiding behind clouds. Hiding behind debris. Hiding behind despair.

Have you seen the light of hope shine through your computer screen lately?
When funds are raised to rebuild homes lost.
When families are reconnected. When children are adopted.
When people who don't have money to contribute to the cause get out into their communities
and find animals that have been left behind when natural disasters happen.
When meal plans are set up to support families in the midst of medical crises.
When messages of encouragement are sent to those who are grieving.
Let there be light.

Back in 2001, just a few weeks after the tragedy of September 11th, I took my first solo trip to Italy. Rome. Florence. Siena. Orvieto. Mind blown. Heart wide open. Tears shed. I will be eternally grateful for the encouragement I received to go see The Eternal City for myself. To experience the art and architecture firsthand. I cried a lot on that trip. For a lot of reasons.

One moment stands out for me now as I ponder the wonder of light.
I was sitting on a stone staircase across from the duomo in Orvieto.
Alone. Me and the cathedral. Face to face.
It was the second or third day from the end of my trip.
Evening was falling. The sun was beginning to go down.
As I sat there looking at the facade of the duomo, it glowed.
Truly it was aglow.
The sun's light was shining on it from behind where I was seated.
And the gold and glass and stone in the building reflected that light magnificently.
I stared at that church for as long as it reflected that light.
I took a mental photograph that I can see clearly in my mind as I type these words.
And I wondered - do I reflect Light that way?
Does my facade, my face, my life reflect The One who Is the Light of the World in a similar way?
The broken chards of my life, the gold purified by the fire of pain and suffering -
does the Light of Life reflect off all that remains and shine through my eyes, reflect on my face?
What am I reflecting?

At a time in our nation and in our world when it feels like darkness is falling,
when it feels like war is looming closer than the horizon,
when despair and fear threaten to consume us all,
am I reflecting light? Am I bearing light into the darkness?
Sometimes the temptation is to stare helplessly into the darkness.
To wonder if our, if your, if my tiny beacon of light makes a difference.
The Book that guides my life more than any other says this in the first verses of John chapter 1:
In [Christ] was life, and that life was the light of all humankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Darkness has not overcome light.
Darkness cannot overcome light.
I believe that The Light is already in the world.
I believe that we are called to reflect that Light, just like the cathedral in Orvieto.
We aren't called to be the Light, but rather to reflect it.
We aren't called to produce the energy that powers the light,
but we are called to be lamps in the darkness.
I am not the source, I am merely a light post, a lamp post, shedding light.

Sometimes the light goes dim. Exhaustion sets in.
Dirt and dust get into the light fixture and dims the light.
Sometimes the light goes out. Power gets cut off somehow.
So I pray. I send out requests in the Interweb of Prayer.
I ask others to pray with me and for me.
I am asked to pray with and for others.
I have no idea how it works or why.
But something happens. The light is restored. Hope is rekindled.
Let there be light.
Let there be light.

So back to that early morning whirring sound.
I looked out the window, and there was the truck.
The man was up in the little bucket thing, looking down into the top of the light post.
I have no idea what he did because the light had already been turned back on.
Some additional tweaking and changing of internal parts must have been necessary.
I have no idea and there is no reason for me to know.
I watched as he did whatever it was he needed to do.
Then he lowered himself down in that bucket thing.
Picked up the orange cones. Removed the blocks that were stationed around his tires.
(It would suck to be up in that bucket thing and have the truck start rolling down the street, right?)
He got into the truck and sat there for a while.
I imagine that he was checking his schedule and the route to his next stop.
What a job he has - everywhere he goes, shedding light.
Making skeptics and non-tech savvy people like me,
people who don't even understand how the internet works,
look out of our windows and think,
"I asked and I received. Let there be light."

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