DESPERATELY NEEDING LOVE IN MY LIFE
“My earliest memory of faith has to do with a little boy of 6 years of age. The family fell apart over my mother’s illness and the huge challenge of trying to cope with that. And we were all shipped off to a boarding school; I was 6 years of age. And the school was a hundred miles away from our home and in those days that was quite a distance. It might as well have been several thousand.
I was desperately lonely, unhappy, and homesick. But the school had a chapel, and those moments in the chapel… . We went to chapel every day, morning and evening, for services. And whereas some people of my age might say that was overdosing, it sort of held my world together. I would go into that chapel by myself on occasion and just sit there as a little boy of anywhere between 6 and 12, ’cause I was there for six years. And I’d look up at a stained glass window, and in the window was a man with a kind face, and wearing a crown of thorns, and a beautiful robe, and holding a lamp, and knocking on a door. And there was no handle on the outside of the door. The door was overgrown with vines; it could only be opened from the other side. And I would go and sit and look at that window. And there were times that I imagined myself on one side of the door, and times I’d imagine myself on the other side of the door. But, something about that spoke to me and where I was. And what I was longing for.
I later learned that that’s a very famous stained glass that was initially done for Keble College in Oxford and, Holman Hunt, the same artist, did the same window for St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. And it’s called ‘Lux Mundi,’ ‘The Light of the World.’ None of that I would have known at that time, but all I knew was that this was a comforting moment, and somehow or other, through that image, I was communicating with someone or something, and finding comfort in that communication.
Well the door was shut and just on the other side of it was this light and life and comfort, and kindness, and I desperately wanted to open the door and let that into my life. And sometimes I sort of imagined myself as holding that lamp and being on the outside of the door, and not quite belonging; not knowing where I belonged. And wishing that somebody would open the door and, and let me in because I’d sensed that there was a certain kindness and light in me.”
I was so grateful to meet Andrew Hutchison, aka “Father Hutch,” retired archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada, and his wife Lois, at their home on Vancouver Island. He shared with me a story I never expected to hear but it touched me deeply. It was the story of the young boy, Andrew, who’d lost his mother and was sent away to boarding school. He soothed his painful loneliness by sitting in the chapel at school, gazing up at a stained glass window of Jesus who was holding a lamp outside a door with no handle and overgrown with vines. Father Hutch explained to me that this stained glass window was a replica of a famous piece called “Lux Mundi,” “Light of the World.” It depicts Christ waiting to be let in; waiting to bring his light to those who would open the door.
It was that stained glass window that Andrew gazed at twice a day for six years. And with such deep insight, Father Hutch said that he could imagine himself on both sides of the door. He desperately wanted to open the door and let this “light and life and comfort” into his life. But he imagined himself also holding that lamp “not belonging, not knowing where I belonged..wishing that somebody would open the door and let me in because I’d sensed that there was a certain kindness and light in me.”
Wow, in one thought, Father Hutch summarized the entire spiritual journey for us: That we must let the Light in, the Light of Divine, often through a door that has been slammed shut. And then, that we ourselves, are the very same light, the light of the Divine, ready to serve.
The thought that we must let God into our lives in a very deliberate action is well pointed out in the New Testament where the author of Revelation, John of Patmos, wrote: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20, KJV).
Theologian and writer Brian McLaren, who has become a friend, explains the meaning of this verse: “I read it as a call to move from outward pride and comfort to inward spirituality, to hear the voice of God in Christ and open one’s heart to God, making the heart hospitable for deep divine communion, sharing an intimate meal in the center of one’s being. In this way, the cure to apathy, arrogance, complacency, and hollowness is an inner awakening—becoming quiet enough to hear the divine whisper, opening the heart, receiving as a welcome guest the presence of the holy, and communing with God as a companion.”
I know in my own life I so often forget to invite the Divine or Sacred Spirit or Universal Love—three names among many that I use for God—into a situation, good or bad. What a great metaphor of Christ at the door waiting to be let in that we can all use.
But then Father Hutch, who is as humble as human beings come, said something remarkable. He felt that he had a special “light and kindness” in him that was waiting to be let in! This reminds me of my own holiness. My own capacity to contribute to what we call in Judaism tikkun olam [repairing the world], or what Christians would simply call being a force for love in the world.
This was probably spoken to best by George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, who wrote of an “Inner Light” in each human. Inner Light refers to the “still, small voice” of God within. Friends (Quakers) traced this belief to scripture, namely John 1:9 (NIV): “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” In Judaism we are taught in the Torah: “Kidoshim Tihiyu Ki Kadosh Ani Adonai Aloheichem,” or, “Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy.” What an amazing call to be a force for holiness and positive action in the world.
I am so grateful to Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, “Father Hutch,” who reminded me that I need to let God in, that I am holy, and that I have an obligation to serve that comes with it.