Day 1: His Light Would Not Go Out
Editor’s Note: We begin our Advent 2022 blog series, “His Light would not go out,” with a reflection written by our Associate Director, Rose Hardwick. Using an image from her mission experience in the Dominican Republic, she reflects on discernment as a process where God lights our way, step by step.
Careening down the dark road, I marveled at how our taxi driver could see the turns ahead. The poorly lit and serpentine street was one of two ways to get downtown, a journey which my fellow missioners and I took once a week. This road avoided the dense traffic that seemed to perpetually plague even the outskirts of Santo Domingo where we lived, but if your taxi’s headlights were dim, you took the route at your own risk.
“I think we might die in this taxi,” my fellow missioner said to me. She was joking, but also gritting her teeth. From my vantage point in the middle seat, I could see the road—well, as much as anyone could, with only the faint glow of the headlights illuminating about two feet in front of the car at any given moment. Our driver, however, was unfazed. The dim lights lit each turn, just when he needed to see the way. We made it downtown (in record time, I might add), amazed and making a mental note to avoid that taxi in the future.
When I talk to our missioners about discernment, I often share this story. In my metaphor, we are the taxi, and God is the headlight. (I acknowledge that it isn’t a perfect metaphor—in our discernment, we shouldn’t hurl ourselves forward on the road, daring God to light the way before we crash!) While we wish that God would illuminate the whole path before we start the journey, that leaves no room for faith. We take one step at a time, following the light that God shines to reveal our way, trusting that God’s light will not go out—God will continue to light the way with each passing step.
“His Light would not go out.” This line is taken from Madeleine L’Engle’s poem “First Coming,” which inspires our Advent blog series this year. In the poem, she explores the world as it was when Jesus was born two thousand years ago, and she reminds us that the peaceful paintings of the Nativity don’t capture the whole story. Jesus was born in a time of unsteadiness, of occupation, of anguish, of doubt. Frankly, it doesn’t sound too different from our world today. We live in a world of dark roads, speeding cars, and twisty turns that disrupt our peace, that distance us from our call to serve, and that shake our faith. But so did Jesus. Despite the chaos, He chose to enter in, to be among, to serve.
Our missioners and volunteers make the same choice when they say yes to FMS. There is never a perfect time to devote a year or more of your life to service—there are always easier paths to take. Yet our missioners and volunteers choose to give of themselves to serve the deep and great needs of our world through ministry of presence. And when that choice is motivated by love, it shines a bright light that does not go out. Their stories will illuminate the rest of our blog series.
As we begin, I invite you to read the full poem that inspires our series below. A peaceful and blessed Advent to you!
“First Coming” by Madeleine L’Engle
He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.
He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait
till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.
He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!
– Madeleine L’Engle, from The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle
Question for reflection: What next step is God illuminating for you?