The following is a transcript from the Raised Catholic podcast. To listen to the podcast, click here.
Today is episode 28: Light Bearers
Well hello friends. In the midst of this dark time in our Church, I thought today we could change it up a bit, shift our perspective, and look for some light. So today we’re talking about light bearers, those gifts of people in our lives who have inspired us, walked alongside us, and helped us to see and know God because of the way that God clearly lives in them.
So, to start this episode, I wonder if we could just stop, close our eyes and meditate for a moment on this question:
As you look back on your life, who has shown Jesus to you?
Who’s the one with the light behind their eyes, the one who makes you feel welcome and valued and seen, the one who serves joyfully? Who in your circle past and present seems to genuinely know Jesus as a friend and effectively communicates His love and enthusiasm without judgment to those around them? Is it someone from work? Someone at church? Someone who goes to a different church than you? Is it someone you knew a long time ago who made an impression that sticks with you to this very day? Is it someone in your family or someone you randomly met who changed you forever?
As we wrestle in a time of darkness in our churches, we can get so bogged down and hopeless that we forget to look for the light. But you can find it if you look, because the people who came to your mind just now – they are salt and light sprinkled throughout this broken world, gifts from our kind God. Salty people make you thirsty for the living water that can only come from God. Light people are the ones who show us what is real and true; the truth of how completely we are loved, the next shaky step toward holiness, the next place to think or move or ponder or act. And they’re not perfect by any means but they do inspire us to live more fully, to become the people God created us to be, to love ourselves and others more than we currently do. They show us mercy and grace. Salty people and light people are easy to identify. As the song says, you’ll know that God is living in them because of their love.
As I consider light bearers today, I’d like to introduce you to a few that I’ve been privileged to know. And as I talk about them, maybe you can consider the light bearers who have crossed your path and the ways in which you can be a light bearer too, wherever you are.
The first people that come to mind are a couple of older friends I met at church years ago, Lisa and Bob. Lisa never married, but she took care of her parents when they were ill and she worked as a teacher until she retired. She does a ton of things behind the scenes for the parish, but it is not her service that makes her a light bearer, it is her presence. When she sees you at church or in the grocery store, she looks at you like she can’t believe her luck. You’ll get a hug and several “I love yous” and promises of prayer and buckets of compliments. Lisa lavishes love on people as she looks on each person with the depth of love that Jesus or Mary might look at us. In my interactions with Lisa, I feel like I’m the most incredibly special creation, precious and loved, and she reminds me that this is how God sees me, too.
Bob was a similar presence in my life before he went home to Heaven almost a year ago. He spoke encouragement into my music ministry every week and he was fully invested in the lives of the gang of kids he saw grow up in our little chapel community. He prayed for all of us, and he told us so. Bob’s faith was so strong even through adversity, and it showed – Bob made me want to be the kind of person in whom other people would just as easily recognize Jesus.
I met another Lisa and my friend Ralph at my first job out of college. Ralph was retired but he worked the phones and dressed in a suit every single day. I was so shy then – you can’t imagine – but he used to call out to me from the little room where he worked, “Hey Soupy, c’mere!” (My last name is Campbell, so that’s where the ‘soup’ comes from, and Ralph is the first person – maybe only person to ever give me a nickname). Anyway, Ralph cracked the code of my shyness and he made sure that I felt seen. It was many years later that I realized that Ralph was intentionally at work at a ministry of joy, and making people feel seen and understood, well, that was something I wanted to be sure I also did as I lived my life.
Lisa was the first evangelical Christian I ever remember meeting. She was right out there with her faith and as a cradle Catholic, I remember feeling a little strange about that at first, but over time and many, many 11:30 lunch hours together, she taught me the language of personal relationship with Jesus and she showed me how to trust God just by the way she lived her life. As I record this podcast, I will be attending Lisa’s wake later this afternoon, which is unfathomable. I truly can’t believe it, and I guess I just want to say that we don’t know the impact we have on each other as we walk through our lives. Lisa probably didn’t know her great impact on me, on how she made me want to be more public and integrated with my faith life, but I hope she does now.
Well, I could go on and on. My yoga teacher Deb who models open-hearted kindness and joy, acceptance, and growth, speck-by-speck. My friend, Katherine, who puts her faith to work on behalf of others and who taught me by her own life what radical trust in God really looks like. My friend, Jeanne, who notices absolutely everything and whose deep well of faith pours out kindness even in a time of trial. Trish, Tony, Billy, Mike, Rachel, Ruth, Patti, Fr. Joe, Fr. Frank…some people I rarely see, some I’ve only met in their books, and others I’ll meet for the first time in Heaven: all revealing light in their daily lives. What a blessing!
And then there are the light bearers at my beloved retreat house who – thank God for them – reveal Jesus in how they love me and in how they have formed real community that looks like the Kingdom that Jesus taught us. God, what would I ever do without them? Too many names to list, too many experiences, but they are out there every day proclaiming the Gospel with their presence and words and actions, and it is largely them alone who give me hope for the future of our Church today.
I find I spend a lot of my time looking at the darkness in the American Church these days, stewing over the hypocritical, judgmental homily or the inaction of the Church on racial or social issues, or the ugly debates from supposed Christians on social media. And it’s important to know what’s going on, don’t get me wrong, but it’s better when I look for the light. I’m better when I look for the light.
God has placed light bearers in every part of my life, in every season, at every job and in every group I’ve been a part of. As I get older, it’s easier to look back and identify them, and those clear memories make me want to be someone’s light bearer too. In elementary school, there was Miss Price whose specific kindnesses to me helped me feel seen. In high school, there was Patty who randomly one day told me that God seeks relationship with us, which kind of surprised me. In college, there was my friend, Peter, who invited me on my first retreat and whose beautiful harp music you are listening to right this very minute. And as I sit here, the names rise up within me and there are far too many to list, thanks be to God. I wonder what names are coming to your mind right now as you hear these words. Who are your salty people and who are your light-filled people, and what does their presence mean in the whole scheme of things, the whole beautiful plan of God?
The truth is that God’s love spreads out and stretches organically like the most beautiful, light-filled tapestry. It’s reaching out for you, showing you your next step, inviting you to be woven in or stitching in a chapter of your story with that of another person. It’s crazy to think of the magnitude of the reality that our stories are connected, and that God is sending us to help each other in specific moments to get us where we need to be. It is a plan that is so big and so loving, it could only come from a very good God. How good is that to know?
Well, it’s light for our path today, maybe just enough for us to know where to step next, but it tells me something, and that is that God has us, friend. He has us.
Thank you so much for listening today. If you liked this podcast, would you please consider sharing it with a friend who maybe has been light to you on your path? I would really appreciate that! If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. As always, I have lots of resources for you in today’s show notes that might help you explore this topic in more depth, so I hope you’ll check those out, but for now, let us pray.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Dear God, we thank you for the light and salty people that you have placed in our path the whole way through. We lift them up for you today, for encouragement or help or peace or whatever they most need today, and we ask for you to show us how to be salt and light right where you’ve planted us, in this broken world that really needs us today. For all of this and our dear ones, too, we pray in Jesus’s name. Oh friend, from my heart, thank you for being light for me today and I’ll see you next time.