This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Won't let Satan blow it out. I'm gonna let it shine. Won't let Satan blow it out. I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Let it shine til Jesus comes. I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine til Jesus comes. I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel - NO!
I'm gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel - NO!
I'm gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Let it shine over the whole wide world,
I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine over the whole wide world,
I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
I believed that it meant that we should not hide our talents, instead, we should share them with the world. It wasn’t until a sermon at the Methodist Church to which I belonged that I learned that it had an entirely different meaning. The song was based on a passage in King James Bible, Mathew 5:15.
“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”
The light refers not to our gifts, but rather to the truth. It is a metaphor that Jesus commonly used to make his point. The truth is ever with us. We should bring it out into the open and share it with all those around us. I was curious and went to jargon database.com to see if I was alone in pondering over something as arcane as the lyrics to a hymn. I am happy to report that as of this evening, 8463 other people have inquired about the same thing!
A simple incident illuminated my interest in this favored hymn. I am used to being out-numbered, bested and overlooked in a family of talented artists. My mother would sketch flowers and plants and wildlife with confident ease, then tuck them into her desk drawer. She thought I didn't guess, but I knew of what she was capable. I found many of her sketches as I went through her desk after she died. She transformed that gift into knitting and sewing at a professional level. I believe she thought the product of knitting was more practical, therefore, more valuable, than her drawings. My sister was planning to go to college to study art. I never had the kind of natural ability she had. Her hand moved confidently and freely and what she was sketching was readily recognizable. No, everything I did required work. I took art lessons at the Montclair Museum during seventh and eighth grades. For four years in high school, I was fortunate to study art from a Spanish artist who pushed all of his students to find their perspective. “Be true to your own perspective,” he would say with a strong Spanish accident. I put down my pens and brushes in college. It wasn't until my children were little, I started to draw somewhat tentatively. I was discouraged from this foray when I discovered that my husband is mightily gifted! He does astonishingly lifelike renditions of architectural features such as doorways and tunnels and bridges. He spent hours with our daughters, Kay and Hannah. Hannah lost interest, preferring music and reading to drawing. Gently guiding her hand, my husband seemed to instill his gift into Kay. I did my small bit one summer when I gave all three children art lessons from a book I purchased expressly for that purpose. By the time Kay was in third grade, she surpassed me. I felt ridiculous drawing when she would be showing me why my colors should be different, or that my scale was off. My crayons were shelved except for the most basic of sketches that I did with my son and the fun restaurant games I would play with all three of my children. Hannah jokes that she stopped at stick figures. She doesn’t include her musical ability and her talent as artistic! My son, Charles, is comfortable defining himself as an artist, a film-maker. It is a passion and his calling.
This afternoon, I found a sketch pad of a few drawings and watercolors I did from high school. As I flipped the pages, I gradually recalled the work I did on each one. They were unsigned, undated; they were mine. Frankly, I was surprised. They had some promise. I thought that maybe it is time to stop comparing my talent to the talent of those around me. Instead, I should try to grow my talent to its own limits. I was moved by the thought that I should not hide or minimize my gifts. It is something I tend to do. Don’t we all?
The next verse in Mathew (5:16) in the King James Version of the Bible says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
So, the upshot of my reflections are simply enumerated:
- The truth can not be hidden or obscured. Truth is universal and equally accessible to those who seek it.
- Use, and do not minimize, our God-given talents. Share them with others as they are simply a reflection of all that is glorious about God.
3. In a family of artists, I have a place of my own. Whether with words, photographs or drawings, I have a truth, my truth, to tell.