As I write this devotional, it is another “bleak, mid-winter” day–gray, cold, and with the threat of an ice storm. How challenging these days of winter and the pandemic have been!
With the arrival of the stay-at-home order last March, many of us were suddenly housebound and isolated. The new circumstances turned my thoughts to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem “The Snowstorm.” In it, he describes the storm’s arrival with “whited air” that hides the hills and woods, and its impact: “The sled and traveler stopped, the courier’s feet/Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit/Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed/In a tumultuous privacy of storm.”
In the long months that followed, the world seemed to stop, and we were all at home in a “tumultuous privacy of storm.” With that, I slowly understood, could come some unexpected pleasures–if only I embraced them. And so I tried. I turned inward to find some joy: reading, walking, meditating, baking. Each Sunday I “attended” church via the new technology, finding comfort in inspirational messages that carried me through the week. Through it all I stayed in touch with friends, exchanging photos and writing long emails reminiscent of letter writing. I realized that “sauntering” can be a good thing, that being alone can encourage introspection, that a solitary walk is a gift, and that I am not alone because God is always with me. I was profoundly grateful for my cocoon and what I discovered.
As the crisis escalated, however, my thoughts turned to others, to those who were struggling with isolation but also with so much more. For them, my heart ached. What could I possibly offer? It was at this time I read a poem, “I Will Light Candles This Christmas,” by theologian and civil rights activist Howard Thurman, which inspired me. (Respectfully I changed Christmas to Lent to reflect this time of year.)
I will light candles this Lent,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all living things,
Candles that will burn all year long.
The notion of lighting candles–literally and figuratively–to change the world spoke to me. It was a kind of epiphany. I vowed to think and act with goodness. How I will fully do that still eludes me, though I have “put feet to my prayers” to help others these past months, and it has been gratifying and uplifting. This I know: For me, Thurman’s words have become words to live by.
My wish is that we all “light candles” this Lenten season and care for one another as God instructed us. Imagine a world filled with that light!
“Be still and know that I am God.”
Polly Dee Keiser McWilliams
The people of Grace reflect on the Bight Spots for the 2021 Lenten Devotional. Each day's devotional will be automatically posted so come back daily for a new reflection.