Life Illuminated

There was electricity in the air when we got home from the grocery store today and I knew the rain wasn't far off.  I strung my arms with bags and hauled them quickly to the house while Annika scratched at the sidewalk with a long stick, concentrating on raking the dry leaves into a pile while I made multiple trips up and down the hill.  

Groceries unloaded and dumped on the kitchen floor, I went back outside to call her in but it felt so good out there and we play in the yard so little, so I sat down on the hill and watched her.  The wind was tossing up her hair to reveal those sweet under-curls, the ones that have been hiding ever since that first haircut on the back porch.  She brushed the hair away from her face, irritated, completely unconcerned with beauty or vanity; self-awareness has yet to make it's mark on her.

Across the street there was a funeral and black-dressed people moved in a somber line, advancing slowly toward what I assume was the coffin. Someone was playing "Amazing Grace" on bag pipes and Annika explained to me that they were probably laying flowers on the grave.  She's never been to a funeral and I don't know where she picks this stuff up, but I whispered she was probably right and we both watched in silence. 

My gaze drifted above the people to the trees that shaded them, red and purple creeping into the edges of the leaves, and then higher, above my own head, to the orange-gold canopy over our yard.  It is so lovely when I catch it in it's splendor, when the afternoon sun comes and bathes it in light and each leaf seems to be traced in gold, but today the clouds were rolling in thick and everything seemed to be cast in grayish hue.

It's funny how the color of the leaves hadn't actually changed, though.  I smiled to think how even then in their faded plainness, they were the same lovely color as they were that morning.  Just as brilliant.  It was only the light that had changed.  It was the light, the intensity of it or the lack of it, whether it fell down fully and freely upon the treetops or whether it was shrouded behind the density of clouds or obscured by shadows, it was the light that made the difference. It was the light that made them beautiful.

And God - isn't he light?  Isn't he Always and Everywhere Light? "God is light, and in him there is no darkness." No shadows, no gray clouds, no man-made towers to stand in his way.   If we could see the treetops with God's eyes, they would always be soaked in radiant light, always revealing a magnificent display of color.  Because his presence lights things up, makes them beautiful.

We know that the glory of autumn is really the death of the leaves.  The trees pull back their life-giving nutrients to prepare for winter and the leaves bleed their beautiful pigments before they fall.  And we know how they feel, those trees.  We know what it means to simply shut down when we sense those cold, lean seasons moving in on us. We don't feel like we can give, we don't feel like we can bear fruit.  We feel ourselves shedding leaves with every cold wind that blows, each time a few more snap loose and fall to the ground. It feels like death.  It feels ugly. 

And when we are living in the shadows it kind of is.  When we are hiding from God, ignoring him, letting thick clouds veil the distance between us or building towers around ourselves, we have nothing to display but the dull, faded evidences of death.  Muddy browns and grays; the absence of green.

But God, he lights us up.  His glory starts to creep in, to trace our pain with an ever-increasing glow until our circumstances are illuminated and we see things how he sees things - in light.

Because his glory is always there.  And his presence?  The Bible says we couldn't run from it if we tried.  It's not about whether or now he will shine on us, because he does. He is.  He is beyond time and beyond space and "his light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."

It's whether or not we have the eyes to see, or whether or not we choose the shadows. "For with you is a fountain of life, in your light we see light." How strange that we can't see him without him, but it's truth.  We draw near in faith to what is invisible, to the light that we maybe can't see but trust is shining nonetheless, and we begin to see that creeping glory begin to illuminate our shadows, revealing his glory.  His presence.  His light.

It's always there, that glory.  That fire.  That sometimes-burning radiance of God revealing himself in our circumstances.  We draw near to him like Moses and the burning bush, totally unprepared and not understanding that fire but knowing that God is somehow inside it and we are not able to do anything else but take off our shoes and get closer.

So we draw near to his light, ask him to illuminate us, to display glory and radiance in the darkest parts of us.  The deadest parts.  We say, "let the light of your face shine upon us" and we beg, "send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.

And though we have been living in the shadows, with eyes shriveled up and blind, he promises: 

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

And suddenly, everything is aflame. 

all pictures taken last week on our hike through the beautiful Ozarks.


  1. i love that last verse, it makes me think of marriage and friendships - praying that God will make the rough places smooth. and you are a writer, most definitely.

  2. I love the idea of the beauty reflected by the sun. More sun, more beauty. Thank you for this post.


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