I had a friend once who’s life took a series of ugly turns. He ended up being just bad news, with no job, no family and no faith, having turned his back on everything. Seeing nothing but darkness, I walked away. Years later I heard that he recovered and was a brilliant example of grace and restoration — and I missed it.
The LA Times last week reported a most interesting story. In 1935, a neon light was installed to backlight a forest scene in Clifton’s Cafeteria in old Los Angeles. Along with a bank of other lights, it created an escape from the urban life for diners.
A few years later, in 1949, the cafeteria was renovated with a different theme and a partion covered the forest scene.
Fast forward to this year. A bulding inspection revealed a soft glow coming through beams, a faint light. They tore apart a section of the wall, and there it was. That neon light was still glowing.
It seems that during the last rennovation, someone forgot to turn off the electricity and the light has been burning ever since. That light has now been burning for 77 years.
Normally, neon lights max out at 40 years before the glass detiorates. Why did this last so long? Hidden from view, no one really cared. But when the old boards were finally torn away, it’s glow was still bright.
I’m thinking about my own life. When I was 20, I was newly married and full of excitement to serve God. Maybe missions. Maybe the pastorate. Maybe full time work at a school. But two kids later and life got in the way. I put up walls over that light and passion. Then there was disobedience, sin and shame. In many ways that zeal was sealed up and forgotten. But the light glowed through the crack, a constant reminder of the truth I have known.
|Photo courtesy LA Times
My friend Tim first brought this article to my attention, and he saw it as an application to the culture at large. He observed that the light was intentionally covered over in the name of progress and modernization. That’s true. Society always has a better way, a way without God. But Tim was also a man who knew my light when others thought it had departed — and never gave up on me.
I have grown children whose lights seem boarded over with youth, career and apathy. But it’s still there for them. And for others in my life. I just can’t give up on them, because a few people never gave up on me.
The light keeps on burning
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