SPIRIT MATTERS: Lighting the lantern within

You are the light of the world…your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. ~ Matthew 5:14, 16

I think we all know it when we meet them.

They are the few and far between that glow from the inside out.

If the eyes are, indeed, the windows to the soul, their souls act as lanterns for the rest of us.

When we meet them, or see them, we might not be able to put into words exactly what it is we experience in their presence, but our hearts recognize it, as if what they have, who they are, is something imprinted on our internal Global Positioning System – something we were designed to look for and desire to emulate, from ancient days.

One thing I have come to know for sure in this life, is that most of the time, the light that shines forth from these people – although it is part of their interior, part of their being – is not lit by a random fluke.

These people have, through whatever difficulties or challenges they have encountered in their lifetimes, opened themselves up to the reality of a Spiritual Power that in its very essence is love, is light.

These people have surrendered their struggles, their pride, their anger, their self-righteousness, their greed, their envy, their lust, their addictions – whatever hostile forces formerly controlled them – and humbled themselves, at some point acknowledging they do not, in fact, have all the answers to life, and they just might need a bit of help to figure things out.

They have opened themselves to allow that love, that light, to shine through the darkness that once clouded their spiritual vision.

Of course, for most of us, that light does not come in one shot and stay brilliantly lit all the time. It comes in stages. The more we seek that Love, that Light, the greater that Light shines through us.

I have found the easiest way to become more consumed by that light, that love is through the simple act of prayer.

Early in my adult spiritual journey, I was at Walmart in Bloomington one week night, when Walmart was where K’s Merchandise was after it moved, and where Hy Vee is now.

I came across a perpetual calendar on the subject of prayer. Some part of me must have known there was more to this thing called prayer, than just the formulaic words I had learned early in my life. Sure, I had used my own words to pray to I AM WHO AM, as I lay in bed at night, trying to fall asleep, but when I picked up that calendar, and began to flip it day after day, it launched me into a journey that will probably continue even after I die.

When you commit your life to prayer, you begin an adventure before unimaginable. It takes you places you never would have – never could have – gone on your own.

One thing I think we all need to remember, is that we cannot put prayer into a box. We cannot say what works for me will work the same for someone else. Just as our souls are unique and mysterious, the way that Love, that Light communicates with each of us is unique, mysterious, and most of all, intimate. That Presence knows us better than we will ever know ourselves. In fact, it is that very Presence that, if we spend one-on-one time with it often, will reveal to us who we are inside.

Through the years, I have used various aids to prayer: candles, rosaries, touchstones, Mass, music, spiritual retreats, sacred reading and more. Just as we all have various seasons of life we live through, so our prayer life experiences changing seasons as well. At this time in my life, I find the way that I can most deeply be receptive to that Presence is through quiet contemplative prayer.

In John’s Gospel, John the Baptist is recorded as saying “he must increase, and I must decrease.” When I practice contemplative prayer, that is what I am hoping for, that the Mysterious Presence that keeps the Universe in order will increase in me, and that my short-sighted, proud ego that is always seeking to have its way, will decrease.

By opening my heart, my soul, to that Love, that Light in the quiet, I am hoping to become one of them – those people that glow from the inside out, whose souls act as a lantern for the rest of us.

SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at jzblue33@yahoo.com to share how you engage your spirit in your life and in your community.