Unpublished: Refuse to Blow the Candles Out

I think that life is hard. I think that life is sad and painful. I think that love is rare and fragile. I think that life is full of loneliness and loss and heartbreak and that we're all desperately grateful for even the smallest scraps of human warmth, kindness and intimacy.

So if I see even the smallest flicker of love, grace or tenderness I want to protect it. I want to fan it so that it might grow. I don't want to move through life extinguishing the flames. I don't want to be the cold, chilling wind blowing the candles out. There are too few. And the night is very dark and cold.

Maybe on some far eternal horizon God will stand in judgment of all the ways we warmed ourselves with whatever affection we could find. Or of how we sheltered those who loved in ways that others found unacceptable.

Maybe. Maybe one day we will plead for a mercy that will not be granted. Maybe.

Shall we be asked to repent of love?

No one knows. So here with you, huddled in the cold blackness, I make my choice.

I refuse to blow the candles out.

--unpublished thoughts about empathy, loneliness and love

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12 thoughts on “Unpublished: Refuse to Blow the Candles Out”

  1. I increasingly meet people who are hostile towards those who are still stuck in a legalistic mindset. One that I myself was proudly and deeply mired in. Its almost that we have forgotten from whence we came. I see it as no different than being hostile toward those mired in our concept of sin. In both cases we extinguish flames.

  2. One of the things that bothers me about a legalistic or fundamentalist mindset is the dogmatic confidence about what God approves of or condemns. Where do people get that sort of certainty? Especially, given the complexities of the bible and the complexities of human life? To very large degrees we're all just making our best guesses. And if I have to guess I'm always going to err on the side of love.

    Shall we be asked to repent of love? Maybe. But I'm guessing not.

  3. This is so beautiful. Thank you.

    Yes, life is hard. Please let me share. When you lose a younger sibling to death while in your teens and you have to watch your parents nearly fall apart when one becomes addicted to drugs and the other becomes violent because of it, you lose empathy for others because you are too numb to feel. So, you doctor yourself with whatever you can find to take you out of the moment; you eventually try religion, but you have to be the one in front, because the pew is boring. But even that loses its luster when you have to defend your mind week in and week out to others whom you are convinced at the time do not have one. So, you try the common life again; it works for a while, no pressure....until you find yourself in a SURVIVORS OF SUICIDE MEETING, sitting in a pew of sorts, listening to people who have been attending for years, yet still bitter. So, after a couple of meetings you stop going.

    But something happens in those meetings. You sit there looking into eyes that are empty, and they remind you of your own when you peer into the mirror. That is when you find yourself at a fork in the road, and you make a choice, ironically a choice you were "moved" into. One way leads to nothingness; and the other leads to life, because there are others around you whose eyes give and ask for love. No, your stamina is not what it used to be, or what you thought it used to be. Maybe that was just the numbness. Because now there are days here and there when the reality is being hounded by the "Black Dog". But now you look deeply into the faces you meet throughout the day, curious as to what is behind them. Who knows, maybe one of us has the love the other needs at that moment.

  4. One of the loveliest images of judgment I've ever heard came by way of a rabbi. He suggested that when you die, the Lord will take you and sit you on his knee -- and show you what your life was really like. That's the judgement -- the light shining on all the denied and repressed, the hateful or loveless, or the just plain painful -- all the dark areas -- of your life. But you're sitting in the Father's lap, his arms around you, lovingly cwtching you to himself, such that judgment itself is grace-full, and tears of regret or sorrow become tears of joy.

  5. As one who grew up in a legalistic, right wing world, I still love those whom I admired in that life. That is why my memory is still filled with the things that were said. I wanted to be like them, so I grasped and held on to every word; after all, to me they were of God's only people and they knew the answers. But, I hate the life I once desired because it consisted of ridicule and prejudice. I can truthfully say, that if I had slept with every prostitute in town, It would not have made me feel any dirtier than some of the things I said about others during my childhood and teen years in the name of religion and politics. It was a pride of blindness and rot. Love washed me, and continues to wash me; yet, I wish to remember it all, lest I become mentally and spiritually lazy.

  6. Could this legalistic mindset be rooted in fear such as TMT, etc. and thus the individual is unable to free themselves. How do you develop a more benevolent picture of this person when in dialogue with them to assist in their freedom from bondage?

  7. Oh Believe me I used to know everything when I was a legalist. I put the dog in dogmatic.

  8. This is my point. I know from whence I came. I need to be Christ to those in bondage to religion as much as I need to be Christ to the least of these. As if I could be Christ at all without Christ in me. Self loathing and self righteousness are equally hostile to love.

  9. Richard, as one who was raised in the same tradition of which you are a member--though in a very sectarian wing of it.... I was taught/trained/indoctrinated in that dogmatically confident mindset. "Be ready to give an answer", and we had certain answers for everything. Though the Bible was "complex" it only had one correct answer and it was my job to put the "facts" together properly so as to find that answer. It wasn't acceptable to say, "this is my best guess."

    At least by my mid-40's I had learned that "best guesses" are often the best answers and that I constantly abide in error and exist predominately on extrinsic grace, goodness, and generosity--therefore I will also do my best to err on the side of love.

    Appreciate your thoughts, Richard. Matt. 12:18-21

  10. Richard,

    Thank you for this. I really appreciate it, and it inspired me to write a bit about it.


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