For the first two weeks of school, the sign at the middle school near my house read, “School Starts at 3:25 am.” At first, I chuckled. By day four I wondered why they didn’t change it. By day six I was annoyed by the lingering typo.
By day 10, I finally realized what was happening.
Yep, it really took me 10 days.
The sign actually said “School Starts at 9:25 am,” but one lightbulb was burned out. The missing light made the 9 look like a 3. The sign didn’t make any sense because one little lightbulb wasn’t on.
What if life is like that sign? What if we each have a light to shine and the overall message makes sense only when all the lights are on?
I think two things keep my own light from shining— not knowing what my light is and feeling like my light isn’t unique.
The only thing worse than a burned-out light bulb is a working light bulb that never gets turned on. That’s a real waste.
Years ago I spent some time in Barbados and I happened to go to a “Gospel Breakfast” at one of the resorts.
As we ate breakfast, the small group of singers sang “This Little Light of Mine.” As they sang, the leader shared this wisdom in her beautiful island accent:
Everyone has a talent that can shine God’s love. Some of us are still trying to find our talent and I want you to know, it’s okay. Keep looking for it.
I felt like she was speaking to me. Was she speaking to you, too?
Hearing this made me more determined than ever to identify and grow into the talents God has given me. (Click here to read what Jesus said about unused and underused talents. Matthew 25:14-30, NRSV)
But determination only goes so far. It seems like each time I head down this road I’m confronted with how common my talents are. It feels like there are millions of people using their words to encourage others these days.
Have you ever felt like your talent wasn’t unique enough to justify the time and energy it would take to pursue it?
Each time I come up with an idea for a sermon, lecture, workshop, or blog post, I find other people who are covering the same subject. I wonder, what’s the point of adding my words?
It turns out, Thomas Edison is the antidote for those feelings.
Thomas Edison wasn’t unique. There were lots of people working on the idea of an incandescent lightbulb at the same time as Edison.
It seems this drove Edison to work harder. It certainly didn’t cause him to give up. He said giving up was the “greatest weakness.”
Edison wanted to make his light shine — literally. Now every time I turn on a light switch I remember how important an idea can be, even when it isn’t unique.
Yes, we are each only one lightbulb on the sign, but the sign doesn’t make sense without every light, right? The world needs your light. You are the only you there will ever be.
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