A Paradise Built in Hell: How Does Your Light Shine?

by Christine Sine

Last night we attended Church of the Beloved in Edmonds Washington.  In the middle of the service there was a time of silence for reflection that impacted me deeply.  We began in the dark reflecting on the fact that God’s light never goes out.

Suddenly it hit me.  There are certain lights that we are only aware of when the brightness of the sun is hidden from us.  The night sky shines not just with the moon but with millions of stars that not only give us light but also direction.

Why has this affected me so deeply?  Well this last week I have read a profoundly moving book called A Paradise Built in Hell, by Rebecca Solnit.  It talks about the extraordinary communities that arise in the midst of disaster.  Calamity doesn’t bring out the worst in us she contends, it brings out the best.  Resourcefulness, generosity and joy arise to shine brightly in the midst of all kinds of horrifying situations as many of us have recognized in the response to the earthquake in Haiti and the recent floods in Australia.

The joy in disaster comes, when it comes, from an affection that is not private and personal but civic.  the love of strangers for each other, of a citizen for his or her city, of belonging to a greater whole, of doing the work that matters. (p306)

Disaster blots out the sun but allows the light that is within each of us to shine to its full potential… not alone but together with the many other lights that surround us.  And in the process it gives us direction – a clear path towards the kind of interdependent, caring life that God intends for all of us.

It is not surprising therefore that one of the main responses to the economic crisis we face is community movements – community gardens, community economic networks, community support structures that pull us together to help and encourage each other.  So often all we hear about are the negative impacts of disasters – the deaths, the looting, the horrors of displacement but in the midst God is at work, building community bringing out the best of who God has made us to be.

So my question this morning is: Where have you seen the light that God has placed within all of us shine out in unexpected ways bringing out the best of people and forming them together into a community of hope and joy?

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