I’m not completely sure if I have mentioned this before, but after waking up this morning at 6am, having my cup of coffee, getting dressed, and taking Cheri to work at about 7am, all under the cover of darkness, I guess I am drawn to talk about light for a little bit.
In all the years of my growing up time, and into adulthood, it seemed that an unwritten, yet firmly held regulation in life was that every garage we had would always be lit by one – and no more than three – bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling somewhere. When I say “bulb,” I really do mean those 60 watt beauties that were suspended 15-20 feet in the air, nudged within the exposed rafters of the garage, who sole purpose, it seemed, was to cast large dark shadows over huge swaths of the garage. A round, fairly dim beam usually hit the top of the car, again leaving a shadow all around, as you tried to find that right screwdriver or wrench at 8pm on a freezing cold evening. And heaven forbid if you were to turn on the garage light, and the bulb would blow! That of course meant that you would have to raise the garage door, drive the car out onto the driveway, fumble around and set up the ladder – we had two sizes, one that was pitifully too short, and one that was probably used to paint the Sistine Chapel – and then go inside, find a light bulb – always 60 watt, as Dad was careful to say, “Don’t waste electricity with a 75 watt!”
Then, the treacherous job included climbing up the ladder, reaching over to try to unscrew the light bulb, which, being screwed in for eons, was always stuck and half corroded in the socket, that if you put just the right pressure, you could break off the bulb from the metal screw, which required a whole other set of tools and the threat of electrocuting yourself, 20 feet in the air in a dark garage, holding a flashlight while trying to grip the metal screw and encourage it out of the socket. Ah, such are the things dreams are made of…. Just in time for Halloween.
Finally, you could take the new bulb, screw it in, and bring light once again – dim as it was – to a dark garage. Even though you just went into the garage to get a screwdriver, you ended up spending a good half hour in garage renovation. Heaven help you if the new bulb you put in somehow had been shaken a bit too much, because then you would have the glory of repeating the entire process the next night you had to go and find something in the garage…
Now prior to 1969, we always lived far south, where at that time, we never had a garage – only an asphalt slab to park the car on. Moving to Omaha, we did get a two-car garage, with two 60 watt bulbs, and then to Grand Forks (one bulb) and from that point on, for some reason, my folks decided that garages were simply attached storage sheds, and they never parked a car in them again – ever.
However, by that time, around 1983, Cheri and I were appointed to churches that actually did have garages that we decided not to fill with most of the house’s leftovers. It was to be a garage, given over only to cars. And tools. And lawn stuff. And those kinds of things. And yet, sure as God made little green apples, we always had those trust 60 watt bulbs, giving us just the right shadows where spiders and mice could find their homes.
Fast forward to 2015, and our current domicile. This was our first three-car garage, which was immediately filled with cars, tools, two large shelves full of “stuff” that we might need, and a garbage can on wheels. We also moved up in the world, and actually had FOUR 60 watt bulbs hanging from fixtures in the ceiling. Over the course of a couple of months, however, two of the bulbs gave up the ghost, and we found ourselves once again with a garage that had lighting suitable for an Italian restaurant, or somewhere else where mobsters might decide to have a confab. It also was going to require backing out two different cars to get to the ceiling bulbs…
I don’t exactly know where the message originated, as I was working up the courage to tackle the garage bulb project, I stumbled across one of those ads that popped up on my computer. This was before the different “as seen on TV” ads that fill the airwaves today, that talked about “super bright,” “like daylight itself” lighting that you can provide for your very own garage… This ad was really more down to earth, and not showy at all. It kind of read, “Look – you hate a dark garage. We make these bulbs that are both freakishly bright, and freakishly long lasting. After you screw them in, every corner of your garage will look like Formula One repair place, with complete wall-to-wall brightness. Better yet, the bulbs only cost $25/each…”
Now, my devoted wife will be first one to say that I am a sucker for these kinds of ads. Where she doubts they will ever work, I always doubt that they won’t! And since for some reason, I am kind of the one in charge of light bulb purchases, I quietly sent away for four bulbs – I mean, what’s $100 between friends?
When they came, I opened up one of the bulb packages. It was about the size of a flood lamp, but the bulb part consisted of a huge number of little bulbs, looking kind of like spider’s eye. I quietly pulled out the ladder, climbed up the 20 feet, and unscrewed the old, and screwed in the new. What I had forgotten was that I had left the light turned on, even with the burned out bulb. When I finished screwing in the bulb, only about half way, suddenly I found myself staring at the surface of the sun! Holy Moley – this was a bright bulb!
I made my way around the garage, to the other three bulbs, and by the time I was done, the huge room was filled with incredible $100 illumination – Indeed, every little corner, nook and cranny, was as bright as day. The wattage was just about 60 watts/bulb, just like their tired old dark relatives, but these boys could shine!
For that first week, I would find my self just stepping out into the garage and turning on the light, to see how bright and beautiful things were. Now, even four or almost five years later, they are just glowing like the sun, happy as little bright stars in my garage universe. I’ve told all my relatives, and I even like to show off to the guy who comes to adjust our sprinkler system – I just flick the switch and it’s like noon on the Sahara.
I know it may be a little silly to get enthralled with something so basic as a light bulb in a garage, but it’s just neat. It seems so many things in our world today are set up to disappoint, or underwhelm. Promises made really play out to be idle hopes, or just wishes, and when challenged, the response is, “Well, we did our best, sort of …”
How nice it is, now and then, to be able to rely on something that truly does play out to be what it says it is, and even more. No apologies, no conditions, no explanations of why not – just a great performance that pleases and amazes.
Don’t you wish we could live our lives that way? Jesus called us to be lights to the world. His command and his description included no caveats, no parentheses of potential failures. He just said, “This is who you are! So shine!”
When we are able to fashion our response to life this way, so we are completely dependable, and truly honest, what a different and significant way we might live our lives. If we would only take seriously the call to love – and to do so without conditions or clauses in the contract --- our world, and our lives would so much more reflect Christ to the world that… well it would be like lighting up a garage or anywhere else where it seems darkness takes over. When we are there, living as God calls us to live, then our world truly can be an amazing place. Try that this week, and enjoy the light of the world shining on you.
Word for the day: tutelary. Pronounced TOO-tuh-lair-ee, or too-TELL-uh-ree. (Depends on if you are British or not…) Of course, we swing back to the Latin tutor, or tutela, both meaning “guardian,” or “protector.” Now, today we use the word tutor to mean someone who teaches another, but it’s original intent was to be the guardian of one’s future. The individual’s job was indeed to protect the dependent from a future in which they would be unprepared to live. More than teaching someone how to read or do math, the tutor in the classical sense helped grow the person into someone able to live and function and thrive in their world. So, “tutelary” is to have guardianship of a person, or also of a thing. Who has tutored you in your life? Who do you serve as tutor to today?
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.