Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace, and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?”
Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”
–translated by Benedicta Ward, SLG, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection
The one light of Christ is like a flame shining out through millions of lanterns. But each lantern is made of different colored glass.
You are the only person God made who is exactly like you; and if you fail to be filled with the light of Christ, you will eternally deprive the kingdom of God of one particular shade of radiance.
The French philosopher Leon Bloy said, “There is only one tragedy: to fail to become a saint.”
–Frederica Mathewes-Greene, The Jesus Prayer:
The Ancient Desert Prayer that Tunes the Heart to God
I am tired of being petty. I am tired of living small. I am tired of hiding. Are you?
If you answered yes, read on. If you answered no, read on anyway!
In the coming weeks, I’m shifting my focus slightly. God has been nudging me in this direction, and as usual, I have been slow to listen, slower to act. But on Sunday, the sermon kicked me in the pants. (Actually, I was wearing a skirt for once.)
Our youth director preached about raising the next generation of Christians. He quoted sociologist Christian Smith: “You get what you are.” Meaning: your children will be like you. If you live your faith, they’re much more likely to embrace it as their own. If you don’t, it won’t matter what you say.
Or, as St. Francis said, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” That’s as true in our homes as it is in our workplaces, neighborhoods, and anywhere else we gather with other people. Our lives are the sermon.
My heart’s desire for my children is that they would grow up to be loving, faithful, and courageous Christ-followers. In the words of one of the bedtime blessings I sometimes pray over them, I want them to have a “lively faith, a fervent charity and a courageous hope of reaching [Christ’s] kingdom.”
There are no guarantees they will choose Christ. But the single most important thing I can do to increase the likelihood that they will choose Jesus is to follow Jesus myself. Not to say I follow him. But to actually follow him. To live a life of devotion to Christ. To let myself be filled with the light of Christ.
This is easy to say. It is hard to do.
Thus far in my life, I’ve been pretty half-hearted in my discipleship. I want to be devoted to Christ, to love God with my whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. But only if I’m not in the middle of an absorbing novel. Only if I don’t have to work too hard at it. Only if I can still have my morning tea. Only if I feel the good vibes that a (so-called) life of faith is supposed to bring me.
But as Martin Thornton points out, “Devotion to Our Lord…is a worthy thing…but the word “devotion” is liable to misinterpretation; it can be confused with mere emotion or a sentimental quest for nice feelings, whereas real devotion, like real faith, has its roots in volition.”
Volition. Not emotion. Not a feeling. Certainly not warm fuzzies. But a choice, a decision: the will to believe, the will to follow.
And even in those times of my life when I’ve made the choice to follow, to be devoted to Christ to the utmost of my ability—I’ve hidden. Light the lamp, let it blaze, but please not in front of anyone else. I don’t want to be laughed at. I don’t want to make other people feel bad. I don’t want this to cost me anything, okay, God?
I am horribly prone to hiding my light (what little there is) under a bushel basket. No wonder it doesn’t blaze brighter. Fire needs air, or it will go out.
My children need me to make this choice: to follow Jesus as if my life depended on him. Which, of course, it does. But how often I forget. I depend on Doug’s paycheck, on my own intelligence, on the resources bestowed by my birth and breeding. All of which come ultimately whence? Yep. From the Giver of good gifts: Jesus himself.
Will I let the gifts point me back to the Giver? Will I let the generous love poured out upon me turn my heart in love back to its Source? Will I let the Light of Christ fill me so that it can give light to my children? And will I stop hiding Christ’s Light and let myself be a candle on a stand, lighting their way to Jesus?
Yes, yes, yes, and yes! By God’s grace and with his help, I will.
If you, too, are ready to make that will-full leap of faith, if you are tired of hiding your light, if you long to be filled ever fuller with the light of Christ, join me in the coming weeks as we talk about preaching the Gospel to our children—not with our lips but with our lives.
Together, by the Power at work within us, we can become all flame.
Jesus said, “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 5:15-16).
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Florilegium comes from two Latin words, meaning flower (flor) and gather (legere). Legere is closely related to the Latin word for reading (lectio). So a florilegium is literally a gathering of the flowers of reading: a collation of the best words, the best books.
I hope you’ll come by every Friday to gaze on some beautiful heart-mind-and-soul flowers. (And stop in at Susan’s, too, for another bouquet).