As a child as 11am service was beginning, after I’d taken a quick trip to the neighborhood store to purchase a bag of candy to secretly eat during service, I’d travel up the stairs to the sanctuary, hearing the saints sing, “Shine on me, shine on me, let the light from the lighthouse, shine on me!” I knew we were not late, because they would sing that song for what would feel like hours before all other aspects of service. I had no idea why their singing became even more amplified as they continued. It was like they would develop more and more strength after the verse, to return to “Shine on me!” What lighthouse were they referring to? We lived in Chicago, and although there was water (Lake Michigan was huge), there were no lighthouses in site. I was intrigued with the saints singing, “Let the light from the lighthouse, shine on me!” During their singing, I knew not to talk or even partake of my candy, but to take it all in, and accept the words as they filled the temple. Years later, I can appreciate this song, not just for its heritage in my upbringing, but more importantly, that the same God they sang about is still moving, directing, guiding, just as He has since the beginning of time. The purpose of a lighthouse is rooted and grounded in safety. And as the saints sang, they were admonishing the unequivocal safety there is when we place our hope in God and He in returns elects to abide in us enabling us to be a place of refuge to others who have lost their way. But He gives us free will, and we can elect to provide that assistance as an offspring of the lighthouse to guide ourselves and others to safety or play a role in someone else’s and even our own tragedy if we elect to ignore the light or dim it when we see fit.
We can find our way in the light. Even when conditions are not too adverse, we can maneuver without too much difficulty. Think about getting lost while driving or a GPS that elects to take us the wrong way. It may be frustrating, but we can usually make it without incident. But in the dark, its a totally different situation. We experience uncertainty, then some anxiety, and possibly even panic, when we can’t find our way. In our nighttime, in our darkest hours, we need assistance to survive. The historical context of lighthouses played a significant role to assist sailors to navigate in the dark. They served as what was commonly referred to as a “traffic light in the sea,” providing direction as to where to stop and how far one could go to ensure that they wouldn’t hit a barrier and experience casualty. God still acts in this capacity in our lives, but we don’t always heed the warning. He’s gracious enough and omniscient of sort that He has provided “light” all around us as tangible extensions to provide clarity, assurance, a recourse of action so to speak so that we won’t experience calamity. Therefore, it is critical for us to lead lives reflective of Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” The light comes from God, and to be sure, it is not to be selfishly shined or shared only with whom we deem worthy. For the total meaning behind this scripture, we must move up a little bit in the chapter and consider that which Jesus spoke through the Beatitudes, compelling us to not loose hope in the conditions we find ourselves laboring in; the poor in spirit, those that mourn, the meek, those that hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for great is their reward. While the world may see these circumstances as disheartening, they are acknowledged by God as blessed! That is the beauty in being the light. We get our shine from God and not from the world. I may be experiencing my dark season, and unable or unwilling to provide light or comfort or assurance to you – even though God has equipped me appropriately. In my anger or disgust or depression, I can direct you in a manner that will result in your injury. I must believe that is why the songwriter spoke of receiving the light from the lighthouse, and we not being the lighthouse ourselves. God’s assurance, His light on us has the capacity to overshadow the plan and the intentionality of the enemy.
When the saints sang, “Shine on me,” they were acknowledging a persistent need to remain connected to God, energized by God, inspired by God and illuminated by God in a world that may not allow space for His beacon. We need God’s light, we need His direction and clarity and navigation in every area of our being. And as we enable His brilliance in our lives, that will in turn deposit light into the darkness experienced by others. May we be encouraged like the saints of old to belt, “Shine on me, Shine on me, Let the light from the Lighthouse, Shine on Me!”