Back on Monhegan Island, Maine, I chose the back bedroom because it had a desk overlooking a path filled withflowers. The other two rooms were oceanside-with breath-taking views. But my window ledge was inches from my pillow on the bottom bunkbed, and after I covered the well-worn wood with a bandana and set out my flashlight to read by, I was more than content with my lot.
I did not yet know about the moon, perfectly framed in that little window beside my head. In the course of the week it would complete its movement to fullness and every night I would watch its course across a clear sky. The memory is fresh and quietly precious, stored in the treasure chest from my week in Maine.
The memory of that moon surfaced in my soul this morning as I read these familiar verses: “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Ps.119:105). I was struck by my reflective moments of watching the moon and how it has taught generation upon generation to reflect with simplicity on the nature of God’s guiding word. He has spoken, and like the quietly permanent moon, the words have the same orienting power now as when they were first spoken through the prophets.
A “lamp” is marvelous image for God’s guidance, for we who often want a complete internal GPS system receive instead, a single direction at a time. A lamp’s domain, like the moon, has boundaries. This past week I have listened to the heartaches of those with broken and struggling relationships of every kind: in families, between friends, between souls and their God, in the churches that seek to nurture them. I am not immune from my own complicated path. And I have tried to resist the temptation of viewing God’s word as a cosmic GPS. All I need, quite simply, is the next word for the next step. And I’m grateful for a moon that waxes and wanes, yet reminds me that the lamp is never snuffed out, and sometimes illumines us with a beauty so surprising that it is hidden, with the word, in our hearts forever.