A Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to one and all!
(Jesus) also said to the crowd, “Would you bring in a lamp and put it under a bushel basket or hide it under the bed? Surely you’d put it on a lamptstand! Things are hidden only to be revealed at a later time. They are made secret only to be brought out into the open.”
Mark 4:21-22 (Matthew 5:14-15; Luke 8:16; 11:33-35)
"This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” I have no memory of learning this song. I only have memories of singing it. Even now, these many years removed from my childhood and after a whole lifetime of living this song has the power to move me to actions – or to tears – depending upon the setting.
Light is not meant for hiding, it is meant for shinning as any fabulous person can tell you. The Gospel according to Mark binds the theme of light to the issue of private and public knowledge: what is hidden will be revealed; what is secret will be shared.
This sentiment echoes dynamics in the coming out process. To let our light shine is to claim and live publically our self-identity. This is one reason the closet is an unhealthy place, for in the closet darkness seeks to smother our light. Too many queer lights have been doused by the shadow of public hate and private self-recrimination. As the famed drag queen Ru Paul is fond of asking, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?”
Part of our light is self-love. Not self-egotism, but the kind of self-acceptance which allows us to claim our God-given identity with joy and pride. Only with this self-valuing can we dare set our fabulously queer-tinged light on a lampstand.
My father was a Southern Baptist minister. I learned early on that the cardinal rule was not to embarrass the family. I also learned pretty fast that the cardinal sin was to engage in behavior which certainly did embarrass the family. My spark of self-acceptance was for a long time eclipsed by the hegemony of prim and proper heterosexual propriety. Anything less would bring public humiliation upon the family.
By way of the greatest irony of this gay boy’s life, God fanned the embers of acceptance of deep love through a young woman. Later on she would become my wife (or as she sees it, I became her husband) and continued to love the light in me even when it threatened our relationship. (For more on my marriage see the post Nonconforming Relationships).
It was barely a glowing ember which survived what I playfully call my “blissfully ignorant years.” I give thanks that they were ignorant or the ember may not have survived at all. I am more thankful for the breath of the Spirit blowing through my wife and sparking the light of love and self-appreciation within me.
All persons have this light, but bigotry and discrimination have made it hard for a number of people to claim their light with any assurance and confidence. More so our need to hear this ancient invitation from the Christ to set our light on the lampstand of the world, and to “let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”