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  • Writer's pictureCherie

The Light That Kindly Leads

Updated: Feb 25

Maybe these words sound familiar to you, because of the hymn, "Lead, Kindly Light". It's a piece I've always found to be pleasant to sing, but didn't ever really study the lyrics until my sister taught a life changing (to me) sermon at a meeting while she was in the depths of her struggle with cancer. I highly recommend that you read it yourself here.

A simple paraphrasing doesn't do it justice, but a key theme of her message is that going through a colossal challenge is bound to crush you unless you can take it one step at a time. "One step enough, for me," the hymn says. As I sat down to write about this tonight, it dawned on me that the comma in the title is in a different place than I thought. "kindly" is a word used to describe the light, not an adverb to specify how I'd like the light to lead. But I kind of like it both ways. The Light is kind. We hope it will gently and kindly lead us through things that would be too overwhelming to take on all at once.

Somewhere in the dusty corners of my cluttered brain I have snippets of memories of a World Religions class I took in college. If I remember right, there are a few religions that prioritize living in the now or meditating. It's something I wish my faith tradition would embrace more fully.

For my sister, "one step enough" meant focusing on how to make each current moment beautiful; or to just notice that it already is. Or to get through one horrible thing at a time. For me, I find myself applying those lyrics to the overwhelming responsibility of raising my kids; particularly teens. I'll spare you details because I owe my kids some privacy. But let me just say, they're really wonderful kids, and also it's just hard to be a young person these days. It's different than when I was young.

When kids are babies, most of their needs are easy to meet. Hungry? Food. Dirty? Fresh pants and a bath. Lonely? Swaddle up into Mommy's arms. All becomes well. Then they get bigger and have problems you can't fix. Problems brought to them by other teens who are also trying to slog through a hugely transitional time of life. Or problems that come from this fallen world full emotional and physical pain. Heartbreak. Mood swings. Some problems are dumb and small. Some of them are big and heavy and make me want to ask God, "Come on. Really? This is so hard."

I find myself feeling like I'm drowning in worry sometimes. All my words of assurance failing. My advice falling flat. My arms not powerful enough to melt fear or disappointment. That's when I need that kind light. A mean light would harshly and florescently spotlight all the obstacles and potential disasters and peril coming from every side. The kind light reveals just a step at a time. Warmly. With encouragement. Instead of seeing the possible doom far ahead, I notice soft grass under my feet. The faces of the ones I love. The outstretched arms. The good in each moment. The strength and wisdom to navigate a little bit more. To light a kind flashlight of my own for my crew.

Every day it looks a little different. Today's nugget of kind light came from the inter webs with no attribution to any author; if you find that info, feel free to share. But it was as follows: "If you hate everyone around you, eat something. If you feel like everybody hates you, go to sleep." Isn't that the gospel truth?

I think I'll do the sleeping part right now. Thanks for reading these random thoughts as I struggle to keep my eyes open at the end of a typical, wild day.

Oh, and enjoy this rendition of "Lead, Kindly Light," by The Lower Lights.


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