I live in an old house. Along with the charms of age, this old house has some surprises. One of these is the angle of the top three stairs leading to the bedrooms. One stair is too short, while the next one is too deep. From above, the angles look a bit like a jack-o’-lantern smile. It was a creative renovation solution from a previous owner who finished the attic, but it takes some getting used to.
When I need to take the stairs at night, I’m careful to grasp both handrails. Before bed the other week, my husband was plotting how he might install some subtle lighting on those tricky stairs for safety. While I could have just learned to deal with our dark hallway and the jagged steps, I was moved by his consideration of such a small thing.
In a similar way, God’s light on our path is a demonstration of his loving consideration for us. The often-memorized John 3:16–19, “For God so loved the world...” goes on to say that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.... Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light.” Before God broke in, we were in darkness. But he did not leave us in darkness. “He will not let your foot slip” (Ps. 121:3).
This promise reminds me of one of the prayers I hear in church Sunday after Sunday: “May we, whom the Spirit lights, give light to the world.” We receive God’s light in the darkness when we gather each week, and we carry his light to others.
My favorite songs are like light on the stairs. One that comes to mind is Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”: “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”
Cohen’s longing lyrics help me to admit that life is cracked within me and around me, and his words call me to hope for the broken things to be restored. Although we don’t have a perfect offering of our own, we have been given a “perfect offering” in Jesus Christ. All things will be brought under the gracious blessing of his reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18). We who are recipients of that grace now have become ambassadors. We are agents of his light in the world. And as we go, his light will lead us (Ps. 43:3).
Often we may not have the proverbial resources to “fix the broken stairs” in our lives, but God’s truth can illuminate the way forward as he is “reconciling the world to himself and . . . has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19). Light brings truth and justice to the places that have fallen into the shadows: bad habits, addiction, the things we have done, and the things we have left undone.
When I was a teenager, I remember studying and savoring songs of light. I found them in unexpected places: mix tapes from friends, pop radio, indie bands, church songs, musical theater, and hymns. From my earliest years of playing gigs and cover tunes, I began to envision each note as a small beam of God’s light shining over the people walking by, sipping their coffee, or having a conversation at the bar. I wanted to carry hope out into the world through these songs of light. All these years later, I am still strumming my guitar, writing songs, and exploring what this means.
My work may be just a small ray of light. But in God’s economy, every contribution matters. When I’m impatient to see the results of my efforts, I think of Isaiah 40:4 promising that every valley will be raised up and every hill made low.
Big changes often start small. Our work brings light and order into the places where we have been called to serve, helping to support each other where the path is dark—from fear, from sin, or from deception. In every detail of parenting or teaching, diagnosing, sewing, scrubbing, prescribing, pruning, baking, calculating, or studying, we participate in God’s illumination. We are invited to “shine like the brightness of the heavens...[to] lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).
God’s marvelous light invites, illuminates, and sends us out (John 3: 21; 1 Pet. 2:9). We, whom the Spirit lights, give light to each other and to the world, starting with the smallest things, like a light on the stairs.
Sandra McCracken is a singer-songwriter who lives in Nashville. Follow her on Twitter @Sandramccracken.
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