Maybe it’s the darkness of the pandemic, or perhaps the sometimes eerie quiet of quarantines. But I’ve been thinking a lot about light lately. Why it matters. Why it moves and inspires me.
When I was young, I would occasionally ride with my father from our home in Charlottesville, Virginia, to nearby Waynesboro for weeknight leadership meetings. Sometimes these meetings went late, but there was a basketball court inside the church, couches to nap on, and often people to socialize with.
Plus, I was guaranteed a late-night snack on our drive home. What teenage boy says no to that?
On one of my first trips with Dad, his meetings ran longer than expected, and while he and several others sat inside a room with the door closed, the sun went down and the stake center fell dark.
I was the only other person in the big building that night, and as hard as I tried, believe it or not, I just could not find the light switches.
My eyesight has never been the best, particularly in the dark, and I felt along the walls searching for those plastic switches. After searching unsuccessfully for too many minutes, a panicked feeling set in, and soon I was seated next to the wooden door that I knew my father was behind.
I didn’t want to interrupt the meeting, so I simply sat in a small circle of soft light that escaped under the door. I remember almost clinging to the light and feeling comforted by what I knew was on the other side. A sense of peace washed over me, along with a feeling of “You’re OK. More light will come.”
I must have been there more than an hour when the door finally opened. As you might imagine, the adults were surprised to see a young man seated in the dark on the carpet.
Naturally they asked why I hadn’t simply knocked on the door and interrupted the meeting, and I answered that I didn’t want to bother them. I explained that as long as I was near the light, I knew I’d be safe.
Someone quickly flipped a switch and, after they said their goodbyes, Dad and I walked outside under a parking lot light and got into his car. We rolled through town toward the convenience store that over the years would become a required stop on our trips.
I remember the lights in the lot, lights on the road, lights in the store, lights on the long ride home.
If my father were alive today, I suspect he’d remember the significance of that night. He’d confess that while I hadn’t embraced all of his lessons back then, he and my mother had done divine work teaching me to cling to the light.
In fact, each of my family members has a profound knack for reminding me where the light switches are in my emotional life, my spiritual life, my family life. The scriptures, sacrament, prayer, and the words of living prophets and apostles are all within my reach. My siblings, my wife, my children—they’ve all modeled for me how to use these switches to invite the light when the darkness comes. I hope I’ve done some of that for them too.
Even if it’s just a splash of light under a locked door until the rest arrives.
Lately it’s felt so dark in the world. So many of us feel alone, in the shadows, socially distanced for so long now that six feet feels like 600 miles, and even in areas when the pandemic has quieted, the world still sometimes feels like a hostile place.
But my faith tells me the light will come. And if we’ll hang close to every little bit, even in our darkest hours, there’s so much more that awaits.
In the scriptures, we’re taught repeatedly about the source of all light, and that there’s more to come than we can possibly imagine. “That which is of God is light; ... and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24).
Maybe my memory of that little circle of light is nothing. Maybe it’s just one of a thousand childhood memories.
Or maybe it’s more. Maybe it shows me why light matters. Why it moves me. And why we mustn’t ever let go.