Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
It was 0347 one cold, damp June morning. By 0348 I had put up the bounty. The hit was for waking me up so early.
“Mum, the tooth fairy came, the tooth fairy came!” The noise came from the tent across the grass path. The tooth fairy could not collect enough teeth to ever compare with the price on her head. I rolled over and went back to sleep, which was a good thing, as I knew I would spend much energy walking around the immense grounds of the Christian music festival I was attending that weekend.
Sleep was short-lived, as I heard the enthusiastic voice of the young boy talking about various things that mattered so little to me. “Ah, that’s the same voice that sealed that Dental Diva’s fate.” It was before 6am and I wasn’t happy. Should not the responsible parent tell the boy to quiet down so early in the morning? She did not.
I got up out of the tent, getting myself wet in the grass by crawling out as gracefully as my non-bending leg and prosthesis would let me. Some of my campmates were there greeting me for coffee and breakfast. Naturally, I moaned about the sleep disruptions, imitating the boy’s voice, recounting all that he said. No one else heard it, which made me sound even more grumpy.
I was in the campground for three nights and four days. As time went on, I learned who the little boy was. He was a very clean-cut kid, and ready to cautiously mix with anyone who would give him the time of day. I learned that he was on the autistic spectrum, and I suspected ADHD was also at play.
I began to feel a bit like Jonah. There I was, having unpleasant thoughts about this young lad (let’s give him a name: Eric). One can be so focused on negative behaviours, any thoughts of sharing Christ are crowded out. I didn’t want to do any acts of Godly charity, I just wanted him to be quiet so I could sleep. I could sleep. I…I…I. He was the Ninevite in my life. I did not care for his future. His family did not matter to me, I only wanted peace and quiet. What if his family heard me complaining about him?
Oh, my grumpy soul.
The last day came. Campers were packing their wet tents and bags. There was a quiet, peaceful buzz. People seemed occupied with their tasks, but not too hurried. Then I heard Eric’s voice again. He was no longer rejoicing over the Tooth Fairy. He was singing a song by Rend Collective, which he undoubtedly heard two nights earlier. “My Lighthouse, My Lighthouse…”. It was a repeated phrase. Ben, one of my fellow campers, joined in chorus, helping Eric with his words.
Later, I was sitting in my own little tent, rolling up my sleeping bag, my legs sticking out of the flap. Eric came close, curiously looked in, and began singing:
“My Lighthouse, my lighthouse…” he paused.
I smiled. “Shining in the darkness, I will follow you,” I sang, pointing back at him.
“My lighthouse, my lighthouse…”
I continued: “I will trust the promise, you will carry me safe to shore”
Together “oh oh oh oh oh oooohhh.”
One person in that duet was the same as he was going into that camp. It wasn’t me. I had gone from being a grumpy fairy-hatin’ fool to someone caring about this boy’s soul and his future.
As I continued packing my damp belongings, I came across my headlamp. Eric had flitted off somewhere else by then, and I was seeing the obvious. I strapped the headlamp on my head, switching it on and off one last time. It went to my pocket while I carried everything else to my van. I went back to the site one last time for a look around. On my way back out, there was Eric, with a young lady who may have been his mother.
“Hey, young man, it’s been nice to meet you.” The lady smiled. I asked, “Who’s your Lighthouse?” Not sure about my question, he answered “Rend Collective.” Excellent observation, I thought. “Well, I hope one day, you’ll find Jesus as your lighthouse. You can be like this light right here.” I showed him my headlamp and he said “wow, can I have it?” This was not a rude question. Eric was very quick to see things and he saw that I was giving it to him. As I showed him how it worked his mother said, “God bless you.”
I don’t know how long Eric will keep that light. He could lose it tomorrow, break it, throw it away or keep it. I have Hollywood movie-type images of him getting it out as an adult, the song in his head, thinking about the not-so-grumpy guy who gave it to him just before he goes out to preach a sermon from John 8:12.
Maybe. Or maybe one day he won’t have that light any more, but vaguely remember the seed that was planted many years ago. Maybe that seed will grow into a living faith. As for me, I am thankful that I did not have to sit in the shade of a giant gourd, only to have it eaten by a big worm. Instead, I drove home in the rain, thankful for Eric and God who gracefully worked on my heart.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. (Matthew 5:14)