Burning for the Light

Victor Frankl once said, “What is to give light must endure burning.” It seems somewhat paradoxical that to give light (for me, the message and love of my savior, Jesus Christ), I must feel pain (burning). Why must one experience pain in order to give love? While this made little sense to me in the past, the quote still resonated within me – perhaps because it gave purpose to the pain I have felt throughout my life, living in dysfunction and active addiction. But, today, it brought about new meaning…

While on retreat with the wisdom of the desert fathers and mothers (and a whole bunch of really cool and fascinating children of God), I was struck with the word “struggle.” It has been sitting with me for the past week or so, yet, I wasn’t able to identify it until today. In the safety of this retreat center, as the newly fallen blanket of pure white snow covered the harsh browning grounds of winter outside the windows and the enormous white candles burned in the center of the room, I couldn’t help but to stare longingly into the flame. At its center, I noticed the tiny, yet sturdy black wick chord, standing proudly as its previously white self was burned away, emptying the original identity of itself for the brief encounter of carrying the flame. The flame that drew me in and helped me to see the eternal importance of the pain. Without its burning, there would be no light.

In that moment, I tried to recall Frankl’s quote in order to share it with others. What came to me was this: “The wick that desires to carry the Light must be able to withstand the burning.” And, now as I write these words, I recognize there is another piece to that statement: “The wick that desires to carry the Light must be able to withstand the burning that eliminates the only true self it has ever known.”

If I desire to carry the Light of my Lord to others, I must endure the struggle, the burning, the pain, the confusion, the troubledness, the disturbance. I must also be willing to let go of the only me I have ever known. To be emptied of self completely. Perhaps it is only because of the struggle that I will ever be able and willing to be emptied of that within me that thought I had all the answers. Perhaps it is only in my confusion, troubledness and disturbance that I finally come to the despair that surrenders all that is me in order to be open to that which the Lord has in store for me. Perhaps I need not know “why.” Perhaps I need only to embrace the struggle and say “thank You.”


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