“I want to be a lightning bolt instead of a thousand flashlights,” I proclaimed confidently as I stood at the microphone at the end of the retreat. I was filled with energy and a renewed sense of purpose. No more flickers of light here – it was “Go big or go home.”
That was more than 15 years ago, and it is now painstakingly clear that my desire to be a lightning bolt was quite lofty and maybe slightly emotional. My intentions were good, but my perspective was skewed by that ego of mine that sometimes shows up uninvited. I wanted to make a big splash, to do something noticeable and noble to make a visible difference in this world. My goal was to have a laser-beam-focused purpose in order to impact the masses.
But, as I look back now, I realize that I took on too much. Through my exhaustion and often overwhelming state as a single parent I felt more like a flashlight running out of battery power – and at times my light grew dim and almost snuffed out. For me, it was definitely not the right time nor plan to be a lightning bolt. A flashlight was actually better. And it started, not with the masses, but with the people right in front of me, right in my own home.
This seemingly obvious conclusion arrived through the words of a friend at a recent book discussion on discerning God’s will. “You know a flashlight is much more practical and lasts longer. It can help you see when the lights go out,” Pam said. “A lightning bolt sometimes knocks the lights out, and it’s one flash and then gone.” As she spoke a peaceful assurance came over me and another truth was revealed: a flashlight requires close proximity to be useful – close proximity to a lightning bolt could be deadly.
A flashlight. A lightning bolt. Both have the power to make an impact with everyone we meet. Just as a lightning bolt can kill, a flashlight can blind someone’s eyes or it can illuminate the path before them. It all depends on how you use it.
So no matter what kind of light you are, the better question may be “What are you doing with the light that you have?”
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)