“Can I borrow your light?”
We were there in a field, huddled hundreds of us, shoes coated in mud from a day of rain. It was nearly midnight. I was holding a candle, a candle that had just flickered out in the gusting wind, sprinkling hot wax over my skin.
The lady I asked the question of had managed to shield her light with her hand, keeping the flame protected, and she graciously held out her candle so I could re-light mine.
That was not the last time I had to ask, and others in turn asked me—the wind stealing the light from our hands, erasing the sparks from the Kentucky field. A pastor was talking on stage, but most of us barely heard him, focused on the quiet drama of keeping our candles from going out.
And sometimes I feel like that’s all of us, all of this life—travelers on a darkened field, just trying to keep our candles burning, to keep these spirits alive despite the wind and the rain. It’s felt this way to me, living with other souls on the skin of this windswept world. I am trying to keep this flame in me burning, trying to learn how to shield it well, how to ask when it flickers out: “can I borrow your light?”
We are the living souls
with terminal hearts, terminal parts—
Flickering like candles, shimmering like candles.
We’re fatally flawed.
— Jon Foreman
We share the light back and forth, moving our flames from behind the walls of our cupped hands to reach out and rekindle others. But what is simple is not always easy, and sometimes in the process of trying to relight someone’s candle, your own sputters out on contact. This happened in the field that night—laughing, my fellow candle-lighter and I went to find a third party with an intact flame.
And it’s happened to me a thousand times: so quick to reach my candle out, desperate to light someone else’s. So often realizing I didn’t pay attention to the wind that was slipping against my skin. So suddenly noticing that now we’ve both gone dark. How do you light up others when you don’t know (not really) how to keep your own flame alive? This question has haunted the past eight years of my life, and sometimes the endless act of asking is what quenches the life in me.
But we keep trying, keep trying to be instruments of healing, keep trying to rekindle what the night has darkened in each others’ hearts, keep seeking for that delicate balance between sheltering our flame to keep it alive and reaching it out to share with others. I don’t understand. I don’t understand. But I’ll keep asking: “Can I borrow your light?”
And when others come to me with the same question, I’ll keep reaching out these wax-spattered hands, cradling this fragile flame, “Here. Share my light.”
Mary is a fan of stories about grace—whether they show up in writing, music, or photography form. She's been listening to and telling those stories as a professional writer for over 10 years. Mary is the founder and editor of Rock on Purpose, where she talks about rock music centered around truth and redemptive justice.