There is a children’s book that was originally published in 1942 called, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge, by Hildegarde Swift. My daughter and I read it the other night. It tells the story of the building of the great George Washington Bridge through the eyes of a little red lighthouse on the Hudson River (based on a real lighthouse that was once in this location.)
We read the story of how the little lighthouse originally felt proud and important to help keep the vessels on the river safe in fog and rough weather with its flashing warnings about the dangerous rocks on the shoreline. Its warnings, night after night, kept those on the river safe from harm.
But one day, a shadow fell on the lighthouse as a vast bridge was built right over it. When the bridge was completed, the little lighthouse noticed that a huge light from the top of the bridge was flashing against the sky. It was a big, brilliant flashing light that far outshone its much smaller rays.
The lighthouses felt that it was no longer needed, because of the much more effective light at the top of the bridge. It felt discarded and forgotten and useless. But there came a night when the fog closed in and the lighthouse saw the danger on the river that no light was shining upon. It waited and waited for the man to come who would turn on the light, but the man did not come. Finally, when all seemed to be lost, the man appeared. Someone had stolen his keys, delaying him. He lit the lamp in the lighthouse, and the light beams immediately flashed out through the fog as a warning to the vessels in peril.
The little lighthouse was needed after all. It had been dark, though, because its lamp was out. It could not light itself, no matter how hard it wanted to. It required the one with the key to come and light it. In the end, the small, red lighthouse learned that the big flashing light it thought had taken its place was designed to warn airplanes, not boats and barges on the river. Only he could do that.
When I read that story, a light came on in my own mind. What a beautiful metaphor for those of us who feel useless at some points in our lives. We see the bigger, grander lights erected around us, the ones that pierce the darkness so much more effectively and in a much more professional manner. We sit in the dark and wonder if our use is at an end. It looks that way at times, doesn’t it? We can feel unwanted. Useless. Discarded. And then one dark night, when there is danger for someone traveling in the dark and the fog, we see it, and we want to help light the way. But our light has flickered and gone out. We’ve been forgotten, it seems. The only One who can light our lamp feels like they have gone forever.
And then, there is the sound of the key in the lock, and our cold, dark lamp is lit by a kind and steady hand. The One who had the Master Key all along had to open the door to light our lamp. Then the Light flashes on, the darkness is lit by our small but steady, strong beam, and danger is averted for someone lost in the fog of this world.
Our light is needed, no matter how small we think it is. We may never realize what it means to someone else. This morning I opened a Hope Blog contact form message from someone who wrote anonymously. The writer sent words of kindness and blessing to me. Their light shone brightly for this one person today. That light was needed. Thank you to the kind man who sent that. God bless you. May the One who alone can light our lamps come again to our hearts and give us His light to illumine the darkness.