As our days shorten in the north, we lament the loss of light and seek alternatives to illuminate our spaces. Candles, lamps, and fires provide comfort and we seek the warmth the sun no longer provides through hot drinks, hugs, soups, and blankets.
The image of light calls much to mind, making it hard to encapsulate its broad meaning in a concise reflection. Light is the lack of burden and worry. It is an intense, steady, illuminating glow. It is hope, comfort, happiness, and it is sometimes overwhelming. It defines darkness, it shows the way, it clarifies and warms. According to 2 Corinthians 4:6 and Matthew 5:14, God has placed a light in our hearts which glows and shines, floats and warms. In this sense, it is a guide, or a source of inspiration used to light the world.
In other cultures and spiritualties, light is also significant. At the end of a yoga practice, we say, “namaste,” which means, “the light in me sees the light in you.” This is a form of respect and recognition of the other’s humanity. In general, we all hope to shine light into the lives of others and receive the blessing of a little shining back on us.
Two of the final moments I spent in Brazil capture this exchange of light well. I remember both events as bright, happy times of connectedness. Stress at work is a general phenomenon, and the church is no exception; from the beginning of my time in Brazil, it was clear that the church office experienced its share of stress. Indeed, it often overflowed into birthday party and get-together conversations held by the office staff and their families. One day while lunching with Talita, the bishop’s wife, this subject came up. We lamented and laughed about our many unsuccessful attempts to talk about other topics. So, we decided to combine our birthdays to do something quite different: a murder mystery dinner party.
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On the day of the party, everything went wonderfully. Our friends got into character, loved the food, made us all laugh, and no one mentioned office stress. The only mistake was our overestimation of everyone’s sleuthing abilities, resulting in our having to reveal the murderer.
Although it appeared to be a success, I was not sure if people really enjoyed themselves. Come Monday morning, all my doubts were calmed; for the next two weeks, everyone continued to laugh about the party. The night before I returned to the U.S., this same group held a goodbye party for me. Bishop Saulo was hosting and instructed us to come in costume. Everyone arrived dressed up and we again instated the rule of no-work-talk and proceeded to have a wonderful time.
I remember both nights as full of light, connection and happiness. I am grateful to have shared part of my life with the people of Brazil and have witnessed the light they are radiating into the world. I hope that my light has brought some happiness in return.