My own, physical, journeys around the hospitals have been long, and most have been on dreicht days: mizzle and mist, half-hearted fog, encroaching darkness ahead of dusk - an encircling gloom. One day as the mist closed in, and spray spattered the windscreen, I followed a car whose driver had deemed it unnecessary to turn on the vehicle’s lights. I found the words of the old Henry Newman hymn coming into my mind:
Lead, kindly light, amidst the encircling gloom,
Lead thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet, I do no ask to see
The distant scene, one step enough for me.
What might a kindly light be like, I wondered? Not the stark brightness of halogen fog lights, that’s for sure, nor yet the shimmering brightness of distant stars on a clear winter’s night. A kindly light seems to me to be an Advent light – perhaps a torch (as in the battery powered things we have nowadays) or a lantern (as in a Davy lamp) – something that gives enough light to take the next step but requires the traveller to be patient, to ‘wait and see’ what will come next. This is the light my hospitalised people need (needed) for their journeys… Ernest, as he made the last journey into the mystery of death; Florrie as she literally travels, step by painful step, the journey to independence; Jim and Vera as they wait for light in the mists of medical confusion. And it is the light I need as I walk with them.
John 1:5 says ‘The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.’ (NIVi) How can darkness understand a kindly light? The brash brightness of a searchlight can be understood, as it endeavours to displace the darkness. But the kindly light is something different; quietly and resolutely it enters the darkness, confusing it with its vulnerability and smallness – how easily a candle could be snuffed out, how feeble its flame. How crazy the God who enters the world as a child, through the waiting of gestation, through the pain and travail of human birth, to share our vulnerability and to walk, a step at a time, a journey that offers hope for our own.
Lead, kindly light,
In the waiting and watching;
In the walking and wondering;
In life, in death;
In joy, in sorrow;
In health and in illness;
In sunshine and shadow;
Lead us on -
Lead us home,
Through Christ, our Lord. Amen
* Names have been changed