When I was in high school I lived for Friday nights. Whether it was football games in the fall, movie nights in the winter, or bonfires and country drives all summer, Fridays were the best times with my favorite people. As soon as we arrived at school Friday morning word starting passing around about who was doing what so you could weigh your options and figure out what was going to be the most fun.
My parents were pretty cool about letting me have a social life. “Text us when you get there, be safe, and we’ll leave a light on” became the mantra of me and my siblings’ high school years. “We’ll leave a light on”. Such a simple promise but in it so much comfort. You see, my parents had a rule. The stair light up to their bedroom stayed on until the last person was in. That way, if they looked over from their bed at night they could see if all of their kids made it home.
This worked well for the most part. Every once in a while, someone would creep in late at night and slip into bed before turning off the light. And without fail in the middle of the night I’d hear a very tired parent checking to make sure all the cars were home and all the beds were filled before flicking off the light and returning to bed. Still to this day, if I go back for a visit and catch up with some old friends, I come home to find the light up the stairs still glowing, waiting for my safe return.
So, it should come as no surprise that I got a little more homesick than usual when I was driving to work and the song “Leave a Light On” by Tom Walker came on. It’s a song Walker wrote about a friend dealing with many hard things in life: depression, drugs, loneliness, you name it.
Do you know a friend like that? Are you that friend? I think we all have been at some point. Although the song is secular, the chorus is a call many Christians are familiar with:
“If you look into the distance, there's a house upon the hill
Guiding like a lighthouse to a place where you'll be
Safe to feel our grace 'cause we've all made mistakes
If you've lost your way
I will leave the light on”
If you change “our grace” to “His grace” the song becomes a familiar prayer that Church has been saying for years. It’s the call of a parent to a lost child. The call of a friend to those who haven’t been home in a while. It’s the call of a shepherd to a lost sheep. It’s the call of God to you.
Sometimes we feel far away from home both physically and mentally. We feel unlovable and unworthy, like we’ve disappointed all those around us. We feel like we don’t deserve to have the light left on because of all the times we’ve never returned home to turn it off. But there is a truth so powerful and so life-giving that the world tries to hide it from us: God’s grace has nothing to do with how we feel. The light is on for you, whether you feel worthy or not. Whether you feel close to God or far from home. Whether it’s been a bad day or a bad life.
Friends, I don’t know what 2018 has looked like for you so far. Whether it’s been a year of many celebrations or many sorrows. Or, if you’re like me, it’s been a year of both. What I do know is this: there is a place where you can always feel grace. There is a place where your mistakes don’t matter and your heartaches are softened. There is a place you can always call home. That place is in the arms of Christ. He’ll always leave the light on.
“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent’.” – Luke 15:3-7
Director of Christian Education
Lost Sheep, Found Child
Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church