“Hide it under a bushel, No! I’m going to let it shine.”
I think this is where I went wrong, where my hope started to go sideways. As if the whole world is craving our lights if we only would let it shine. If only it was that easy. I feel a sweet contentment and gratitude for life and my calling. It has come in part from sorting through misguided and misplaced hope in the search to live in greater freedom to be who we are made to be.
I put so much weight - unintentionally - on this little song that really isn’t even based on good theology. I’m not sure I even fully understand the theology of light, of shining our lights. What for? Why? Where? How? I’ve tried so many different things and yet so often still feel stuck under the bushel. I’m not trying to ‘hide it’ - but what if the bushel won’t get off of us? Then what? (And what even is a bushel anyway - oh but that’s beside the point.)
One reading this might look at some of the things I’ve done and think - she has shined her light so bright: look at x, y or z as examples. And yes, I’m very grateful for each of those opportunities, there has been some beautiful moments. We’ve all had our shining moments.
Rather, what I’m sorting through now as a grown up is this theology we are inadvertently taught as kids that we will all shine if we just try hard and don’t hide it. But instead most often, it feels each of our unique lights we have to offer end up getting lost in the myriad of all the other lights all around, it’s often drowned out and feels hidden as a result.
So then we’re told, if you want your light to shine brightest then go to a dark place, it only takes a small light to illuminate a dark room. So I did, not for this reason alone, but I went to Iraq. While there’s so much more to say about my time there, all overwhelmingly rich and beautiful - I found that this place was NOT void of light, it wasn’t dark, it was vibrant and beautiful and in so many ways the light there was more pure. Yes, my light shined in Iraq but not because it was a dark place.
Then I went to conflict zones in Israel and Palestine and found the same thing, there is a lot of strife in this region but there is light there too, there is a vibrant hope so many people carry. It was complicated but not dark.
So maybe this whole bushel thing is more about shifting our own expectations. It’s less about our own individual lights and more about our lights together as a collective beauty illuminating hope around us and igniting love in our hearts for one another, for ourselves.
Success I’m learning, isn’t about me and some metric I’m measured by. There’s so much beyond my control. I can’t force opportunities to shine my light (Yes, I’ve tried really hard to!). But I can love even when my light feels stuck under a 5-ton bushel. I can choose to love from here or anyone. There are others I see doing this well who I admire. So maybe I’m not so alone in this place, maybe you’ve felt stuck there too. I can love you there and you can love me there.
There is no room for judgement of anyone based on how they choose to shine their light. No one can fully know the circumstances one is wrestling with. So maybe it’s less about us. Maybe it’s less about shining, as if in some way that makes us more special than someone else. Rather, it’s more about living in love, freedom and contentment where we are. Doing our best no matter where we are, whether it’s stuck under a bushel, on a stage for thousands, teaching in a classroom, sitting around a conference table, making dinner or tucking our kids into bed. We do our best, we lead with love, we shine through love whether anyone sees or not.
In this living by love the strings of expectation we’ve attached get plucked free (and the arbitrary bushels are removed) and joy is the result. I’ll close with this quote which helps me find contentment in the process:
“Know indeed that “All is well.” Delay is but the wonderful and all-loving restraint of your Father - not reluctance, not desire to deny - but the Divine control of a Father who can scarcely brook the delay. Delay has to be - sometimes Your lives are so linked up with those of others, so bound by circumstances that to let your desire have instant fulfillment might in many cases cause another, as earnest prayer, to go unanswered.” (God Calling)
So let’s worry less about the bushel, let’s not fret over the brightness of our lights. Instead let’s open our eyes to loving those around us as best we can in joy and freedom.