(written January 2004)
I crack open the window and feel the immediate force of the cold wind as it attempts to force the window fully open. I lean forward, straining to see through the slats of the shutters making out ghostly white images, indistinct and clouded by the overpowering darkness and the fresh blanket of snow. There is no movement other than that caused by the violent gusts of wind – no light just a pervading darkness in every direction. It is after sun set, it is snowing, and the electricity supply has failed.
I push the window shut and turn into the pitch darkness of the house, moving carefully towards the stairs. Our home consists of two floors, the main floor with the living room, bathroom, spare bedroom and kitchen. The lower floor with a toilet, bedroom and work room. As I move towards he stairs the light of the candle that we have placed in the lower hall shines brightly before me, making things clear and distinct, I am able to tell steps from shadows and I move forward with greater confidence.
It is amazing how much light a single candle can give. The tiny flame on top of a slender tube of wax shines and fills the corridor in an amazing abundance of light – providing safety in negotiating the stairs and the curve at the bottom and bringing cheer and brightening the heart with its glow. We have positioned candles in the hall, toilet and work room, three small seas of light in the winter darkness.
As is often the case in our modern world, the house slowly chills with the absence of the central heat system which is lying still due to the deficiency of electricity – silent and still. The phone ceases to work and the computer, well the lap top will work as long as the battery lasts. There is no danger. We will not freeze to death – there is snow, but it is not that cold and these houses are like modern caves against the elements. This represents minor discomfort, certainly, but no more.
This small candle beside me, providing me light and comfort and reassurance as I type these few words reminds me of something that happened just a few days ago.
T. and I had just returned from the UK, rejoicing in the Lord for the completion of the sale of our house – and as our journey was nearing an end, we were looking forward to getting “home”. We took the service bus from the airport to the sea bus terminal. There was quite a walk from where the service bus dropped us and the sea bus and this walk was made more difficult as we had made a small, but significant error.
When travelling your life is reduced to 23 kilos each, and weight seems to be the most important issue, and it is an important issue, but it is also important to remember that we have only two hands each and the total number of bags must be no more than four.
We had five.
Now it wouldn’t have been too much of a problem – manageable, but a new bag, a gift we received in the UK, suffered in its maiden flight and all the wheels had been torn off the bag – it was large, it was heavy and now it would have to be carried and not dragged.
By the time we reached the sea bus I wasn’t going to lug the luggage one foot or centimetre further than I had to, so, once on board we collapsed in the nearest seats – at the front of the boat. There was but one row of seats facing the back the remainder all faced forward. As I sat there, looking towards the back of the boat, before me sat some two or three hundred fellow passengers. Some were reading, others in discussion, the obligatory individuals chatting loudly away on their mobile telephones, others taking the opportunity to catch a few winks of sleep and still others staring into space. Two or three hundred people just like you and me. They have fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, they work, or go to school, they have dreams, fears, problems, struggles, aspirations, encouragements and discouragements – just like you and me. People who laugh at funny things and cry at sad. People who want to have a full and happy life. People who face the same, everyday problems of life that you and I face.
But what struck me as I sat in my seat, surrounded with the lugged luggage, catching my breath and feeling new muscles speaking out against the journey so far, the thing that struck me as my eyes raised from my petty complaints and bags to the faces of the people before me, was these people have never heard the Good News of “abundant life”, of “new life”, of “being reconciled with God”, of “knowing Him”.
They are doing their best to live their lives, but they have never had a single opportunity to hear and understand all that is, in Christ. This is what it is all about. Giving this lovely people, with their dreams and aspirations, disappointments and discouragements their first opportunity to hear the good news. Currently, it is said, there are somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 Muslim background believers in the whole country (this number was accurate when written in 2004 – today in 2015, the number is considered to be between 4,000 and 5,000).
My little candle makes all the difference in the house. Without it, I would stumble, even though I know the house well. Without it I would have difficulty with the basic tasks of life that must be done. Without it there is very little I could do – and that which I may attempt to do would be difficult and fraught with hidden dangers. My simple little candle makes a fantastic difference in this great darkness.
So, we, feeling feeble, unworthy and insufficient to the task can be a “little candle” shining in darkness. Likewise, you, wherever you are, in whatever situation you find yourself, whether you feel great or small, can be that “little candle” in the darkness you find yourself in.
Our task simply is to let our little light shine.