A few days ago, it occurred to me that this familiar Sunday School song—almost a brain-worm melody—might be a really good way to encourage each other again about an especially important part of being old: We have lights and they still shine! This Gospel and social protest song from the 1920s can ring true right now.
If you and I take “This little light of mine” as a way of summarizing how our lives are significant, each of its many verses might say something valuable:
I’m going to let it shine. Our lights may be like candles in the darkness. (Remember the *ancient Chinese proverb, “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”?) No matter what our light might be—wisdom, caring, honesty, service—it’s there and it’s noticeable.
Hide it under a bushel? When we were little kids, we would emphasize our sung answer with a shouted NO! It makes sense to think—and act—the same way today. No way are we going to cover our older adult lights! There’s too much of a need for love, forgiveness, understanding or generosity in these times (And we won’t let Satan blow it out, either!)
All up in my house. The first and perhaps best place for our lights to shine is within our families, the people closest to us. Although sometimes difficult, our witness and example to those near and dear can be the most cherished and long-lasting part of our light-shining lives.
All around the neighborhood. Whatever “light” might be—a Holy Spirit gift, right?—we’re not staying at home with it, as though this is the only place where God’s light can be a blessing. Our actual and virtual neighborhoods are pretty big. And we love our neighbors as ourselves!
Everywhere I go. Light-shining is a good thing in any situation—no matter how tough. Now that we have more than a few years of life behind us, we’re tough and resilient enough to shine Jesus’ message within whatever context we find ourselves. Have lights, will travel!
Let it shine ‘til Jesus comes. This light-shining way of life doesn’t stop when any of us dies. Each of our candles kindles others. Over years, the amount of light becomes overwhelming—so many lives dedicated to showing God’s power and love—that the brilliance of thousands of tiny points-of-light will last to the day Christ returns.
Hope is bound into this tune. Into our light-shining. When we think about this song, we can rededicate ourselves to live like lights, now matter how difficult or dark the circumstances in which we find ourselves! We can remain resolute—even stubborn—about our witness, about Christ’s way, about the hope that sustains us. We can put aside small-minded notions about our insignificance, our personal power, our circles of influence.
One more thing: Just in case your little light needs help shining: sing, hum or whistle “This Little Light of Mine” three times right now. And don’t be surprised if the song—and these thoughts—stick with you for a long time after today.
It’s a small worm after all….
*The origins of this proverb likely go back that far. The teachings of Jesus—see Matthew 5:16—are an originating source, too. These words continue as a strong statement of purpose, most notably as the mission statement for The Christophers, a Roman Catholic mission organization that emphasizes positive social action in the name of Jesus.