[The following post originally ran in April 2013 on Dr. Holly Ordway’s excellent Hieropraxis.com.]
This Little Light of Mine
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine
Let it shine
I have joy-filled memories of singing that song in Sunday School, and shouting out “NO” with delight when we sang the answer to: “Hide it under a bushel?”
The answer was obvious. “No! I’m gonna let it shine!” All those lovely off-key kid voices sure that we would never put out our little lights. We all knew what “it” referred to as well. All of “it.” The love of Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit, the special gifts given by the Father to each of us, the imprint of the Creator: we knew intuitively that this was the little light in each of us and no way would we (no way could we) hide it under a bushel.
What’s so simple at six or seven or even eleven, starts to get more complicated as the years accumulate and so do the reasons for hiding. We start to realize that the little light is not welcome by everyone, that there are people in the world who would be happy to put out our lights for us. We make poor choices about how to use our light and then feel burned by the accusation (true or false) of hypocrisy. Well-meaning coaches and mentors encourage us to “tone it down” or try to help us “fit in.” Our gifts may not be of the fitting in sort, so we dim our lights a bit more to accommodate, and become a little less than who God made us.
This has come to a head for me of late, as I’ve been in the peculiar (though now I see it as blessed) position of promoting my own collection of poetry. It has felt a bit strange and out of character for me, as I prefer to promote the work of others and otherwise stay in the background. And yet, I am a poet. This is my little light. For so many years I have attempted to separate the business professional from the creative poet, and the result has been diminished light and internalized stress.
I want to write about this self-promotional thing because I think it’s important to say a couple things about it. First, for me, it’s not really “self” promotion. At least, I don’t see it that way. I have this stuff I do that gives me great pleasure. If others get to share that pleasure, so much the better. And if it’s not their thing, who’s the worse for it? It’s like my friends who are good musicians. How weird and sad if they only sang for themselves in the shower, or played their instruments in a closet. Right?
Second, by sharing about this stuff I do, several unexpected doors have opened up. A few writing projects have come my way, totally unsolicited, and having absolutely nothing to do with poetry. I’ve reconnected with friends and colleagues from over a decade ago. And I have formed new friendships with other artists out there doing their best to shine their little lights.
All of this to say, if you have been hiding your little light under a bushel because you’re worried about what others will think or that you’re not worthy, I’m here to tell you this: You’re right. Others will think all kinds of things, good, bad, and indifferent about you (or maybe they won’t think about you at all), and in many cases they will think these things (or think nothing) whether or not you shine. So go ahead and shine.
And you’re right. You’re not worthy. Isn’t God’s grace marvelous?