“You are the light of the world…. let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16 — Holman Bible).

When I taught Christian education some years ago, I was affectionately known as the “Lamp Lady”–not merely because I was, despite my many imperfections, encouraging students to shine the light of Christ more brightly and broadly but also because I could often be found early in the morning before students arrived or immediately after they’d been dismissed sitting at my desk, with only a small lamp turned on beside me. By dim lamp light, I graded papers or organized my things, and in those quiet moments, I often reflected on the hours past or yet to come, set goals for myself and prayerfully tried to put things in perspective.

Sometimes colleagues would happen by and stop, then tease me from the doorway. “Why don’t you turn on some lights?” they’d holler across the room. Hence the nickname.

Though no longer teaching a classroom of students, I’m still teased–my kids walking into the kitchen many evenings to exclaim, “Turn on some lights, Mom! Geesh!”

But I just love lamp light–cherishing the time of day when it’s not yet dark but growing dim, when light is helpful, though not yet necessary. I walk from room to room to turn on lamps. Not stark, overhead lights but low light emitted from warm bulbs in fixtures on desks, dressers and the kitchen counter.

Such light is, to me, inviting, calming and quiet–like a whisper rather than a shout. Something about it helps me regain perspective, no matter how difficult the day.

In the book The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the Little Prince visits a tiny planet whose lone inhabitant is a lamplighter. His only daily task is to light a single lamp in the morning, then put it out at night. The planet’s rotation has, over time, increased in speed, and when the Little Prince discovers this orb with its occupant among the stars, it turns, by then, rather quickly–making a complete rotation once every minute. Thus, the lamplighter has grown somewhat weary from lighting and then extinguishing the lamp every sixty seconds. Still, he fulfills his duty faithfully.

The Little Prince asks him why he does this, and his reply is simple.

Those are the orders.

The Little Prince–having previously visited several planets inhabited by some eccentric characters–thinks the lamplighter, despite his mundane job, the least peculiar of all, saying,

At least his work has some meaning. When he lights his street lamp, it is as if he brought one more star to life, or one flower…. That is a beautiful occupation. And since it is beautiful, it is truly useful….  [This lamplighter]… would be scorned by all the others…. Nevertheless he is the only one of them all who does not seem to me ridiculous. Perhaps that is because he is thinking of something else besides himself.

It doesn’t bother the lamplighter that half his day is spent upside down, in darkness. He follows his orders by lighting the lamp–“Good morning!”–and putting it out again–“Good evening!”–day after day, minute by minute.

Being one who enjoys discovering timeless truths in children’s stories, I also thoroughly enjoyed the musical Mary Poppins Returns. Especially endearing is Jack, a friend of Mary Poppins who happens to also be a lamplighter.

In one scene, Jack–whose amazing dance moves keep him upside down much of the time–sings,

There’s a different point of view awaiting you, if you just look up.

Imagine being the lamplighter in The Little Prince, inhabiting a small planet where–whether he’s right-side up or upside down–looking out offers him an extraordinary view of God’s vast expanse of heavenly light. Depending on his point of view–his perspective–he could have grumbled, “What difference does my one little light make?” but he doesn’t; instead he remains faithful to the task, obeying his orders.

And the Little Prince understands this poignant truth–concluding that, of all the planets he’s visited…

he was sorry most of all to leave this [one], because it was blest every day with 1440 sunsets!

What perspective. The Little Prince didn’t lament that the Lamplighter was in upside-down-darkness half the time, but rather that, when the day kissed coming darkness, something beautiful always occurred.

For me, that’s what lamp light is–whether at my desk in a classroom or as I go from room to room in my home. With a mere flip of a switch or push of a button, a darkening room suddenly whispers a reminder…

Let your light shine.

It’s a time to focus on what matters most. To acknowledge my real purpose–as mundane as some days seem, as weary as and overwhelmed by life I may sometimes feel. Because I, too, have been given a task–to be both a light-bearer and a lamplighter. To carry the light of Christ within me, as well as help light the lamp in others by encouraging those whom God has placed in my path, through discipleship and mentoring–that they, too, might fulfill their orders: to be light-bearers and lamplighters.

Yes, when the day meets coming darkness, something beautiful does occur. Light spills out into the dim–not so brightly that the imperfections of dust and clutter are accentuated but just enough to create dancing shadows and quiet reflections–like sunset on water.

Mary Poppins says,

When the world turns upside down, the best thing to do is turn right along with it.

Even on the worst of days, when things haven’t gone as planned and my world feels topsy-turvy, a warm glow from a lamp eases tensions and somehow puts things to right. It reminds me that, like the lamplighter, my light matters–even if surrounded by a thousand other points of light on the planet I inhabit. Like him, I don’t fulfill my call for my own sake but for “some[one] else besides [my]self.” To bring to life one more star, now that’s a beautiful thing indeed.

We’ve each been given our orders–for God’s glory and for those who, perhaps, still live in darkness: to bear His light and be lamplighters. Yes, even when weary…

Let your light shine!