Every once in a while, a passage of Annie Dillard’s makes sense to me. (I usually struggle to grasp much of her writings. How about you?)
But recently one of her anecdotes came across loud and clear. In Holy the Firm, she writes about a camping trip, reading at night by candlelight, and watching moths flying into the flames.
“One night. . . a golden female moth, a biggish one with a two-inch wingspan, flapped into the fire, dropped her abdomen into the wet wax, stuck, flamed, frazzled and fried in a second. Her moving wings ignited like tissue paper, enlarging the circle of light in the clearing. . . .
“Her six legs clawed, curled, blackened, and ceased, disappearing utterly. And her head jerked in spasms. . . her antennae crisped and burned away. . . . Her head was . . . gone. . . .
“All that was left was the glowing horn shell of her abdomen and thorax—a fraying, partially collapsed gold tube jammed upright in the candle’s round pool.
“And then this . . . spectacular skeleton, began to act as a wick. She kept burning . . . a saffron-yellow flame. . . . She burned for two hours without changing . . . while I read by her light.” (Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
That reminds me of Albert Schweitzer’s quote:
“At times our own light goes out
and is rekindled by a spark from another person.
Each of us has cause to think
with deep gratitude
of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
Read those two sentences again and pause to think:
How many times has your light dimmed and faltered, only to be rekindled by a sparka light sharedfrom another person?
In what ways did God arrange events to bring that person into your life?
Back then, you might not have recognized God’s efforts to bring that person into your life, but it’s not too late!
Think about Annie Dillard’s moth. Think of people who are no longer with you but whose lives and light have lived onguiding you, encouraging and inspiring you to fight the good fight. I think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., former U.S. Representative John LewisHelen KellerCorrie Ten Boom
I have a hunch that the brightest sparks of light in your life are people who don’t make it into the news or Wikipedia or books. Maybe he or she was:
a neighbor, or a grocery clerk, a fireman, a four-year-old, a writer,a parent or grandparent, an athletea librarian, a nurse,a conference speaker, a coach,your best friend, a new friend, or even a stranger that you never saw again
Who “enlarged the circle of light” available to you? Who “kept burning . . . while you read by her light”?
Be deliberate. Make time to remember
Snap the puzzle pieces together. Connect the dots and notice the ways God hovered close, using that person to rekindle your light
Uncover it, even if it takes weeks or months
Here’s a suggestion:
Make yourself a working document, a three-column list, one column for your “dark” times, a second column for the people who shared their light, and a third column to make notes about specifics that come to mind.
Some, if not all, of those incidents are stories to write in your memoir.
When you write, dig deep. And deeper. Refuse to skim over the shallow surface of life.
What did you learn about yourself through both the dimming of your light and the rekindling of it?
What new and better person did you become?
As a result, how did your life change?
What did you learn about God?
How did the experience strengthen your faith?
How did it inspire you to be a light in other people’s lives?
When you write about those experiences, you are saying, like David in Psalm 18:28, “My God turns my darkness into light
2 Peter 2:9 speaks to those chosen by God, set apart, belonging to God, for a purpose: “that you might declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light
Through your memoir you can pass on to others
the light someone gave to you!
Your story can reach into the lives and hearts and minds
of those whose lights have dimmed and faltered.
Your memoir can rekindle a spark
that can grow into bright flames of light.
Wow! Just Wow!
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