In my more romantic days, I sat in a darkened car with a young lady to whom I was very attracted. Very nervous and short of my usual poetic finesse, I remarked, “You are so beautiful in the dark.”
We never went out again. It seems she could never get her hair clean, because every time I asked her out, she always declined, saying she needed to wash her hair. Needless to say, she was not the one I married.
I was trying to say how amazing it was that her beauty shown, even in the dark, but somehow that is not the message she heard. It was clear I wasn’t going to find beauty in the dark.
It’s amazing to me how many people look for things in the dark. Take faith, for instance. Some people say faith is stepping out to the edge of darkness and taking one step further.
Finding faith in the dark is even more pointless than looking for beauty in the dark. I think faith is stepping out into the light from the edge of your darkness. I think it is choosing the light.
You don’t make this plunging step out of darkness on your own. We are ushered to the edge of light by people who have faith in us — parents, friends and teachers.
There is a Bible story commonly used to illustrate faith that took place as Jesus had 5,000 people assembled. He tried to feed them, but the disciples had not made their Costco run and there was no food. One boy, who had just got back from the drive-through with his fish sandwiches, volunteered his lunch.
The Bible tells us that despite the negative disciples who didn’t know how this could be done, Jesus kept repeating, “they gotta eat.” So he broke up the fish and, because of the boy’s faith, fed 5,000.
The story of the multiplied fish feeding thousands is not unlike what many teachers have done for our world. They took us as we were and through faith — their faith and faith in us — multiplied us into something that will build, clothe, feed, supply and grow our world.
The man who taught me to be a hospital chaplain seemed unimpressive when I met him. He was overweight, bearded, mumbled and wore Coke-bottle glasses. There were some shallow people who saw him as “nerd.” I was shallow.
Nevertheless, he sustained me as I worked with patients with horrendous injuries: people with paralyzing injuries; people with burns over 50 percent of their bodies; people shot in robbery attempts; people crushed in car accidents. I dealt with people who had lost loved ones to electrocution, drowning, SIDS, miscarriage, heart attacks and even the flu.
The faith he placed in me grew until one day, the faith returned full circle to him when he had surgery to correct a lifelong sight problem. The surgery failed miserably, and he was wheeled into the recovery room totally blind.
In the months that followed, the students he trained became a part of those who delivered back unto him the faith he first delivered to us. There was a sense in which the roles were reversed. To this teacher, we became a teacher. To this mentor, we became a mentor. We became a pastor to this pastor of pastors.
By the time we completed the training program, our mentor was reclaiming his independence by opting for his cane over an escort. Additionally, he was using technology to overcome the handicap the sight world imposed on him. The other students and I helped escort our teacher back to the light.
As this new generation of graduates has arrived in the light, they, too, will need to escort a generation that is growing old and loosing its sight. It will be the job of those who have been taught, enlightened and escorted out of ignorance by their valiant teachers to give back the light to the aging generation and bring them full circle back to faith.
There will be those hoping for failure. In seventh grade, I had a crush on Suzanne Studebaker. I was sure she felt the same about me and was admiring me from afar, waiting for me to make my move. One day in French class, I stood on a chair to change a light bulb for my teacher when Suzanne blurted out, “I hope you fall, I really hope you fall.”
But for everyone hoping for failure, there are scores of teachers rooting for you, encouraging you and shining the light to guide you.
Robert Lewis Stevenson, best known for his adventure story, Treasure Island, was in poor health during much of his childhood and youth. One night, his nurse found him with his nose pressed against the frosty pane of his bedroom window. “Child, come away from there. You’ll catch you death of cold,” she fussed.
But young Robert wouldn’t budge. He sat, mesmerized, as he watched an old lamplighter slowly working his way through the black night, lighting each street lamp along his route.
Pointing, Robert exclaimed, “See; look there; there’s a man poking holes in the darkness.”
Teachers, have a great summer vacation, and return to us in the fall with renewed determination to poke countless holes in the darkness.