by Michelle Bauman
Lighthouses. I don’t know about you, but I have a fondness for them. The idea of stark solitude, uncompromising dedication, and life-saving work has always been a bit awe-inspiring to me. Romantic, even, the way gothic literature with all of its shadowy angst and human triumph can be.
You can imagine my excitement, then, when Doug and I discovered we would be in Maine on Lighthouse Day. It is the ONE DAY each year that all of the lighthouses are open to the public free of charge. Any man, woman, and child tall enough can climb inside each one of them and stand at the tippy-top—right inside the lantern where all the action is, where all of the life-saving work is done.
Though open, not all of the lighthouses are easily accessible. Some can only be reached by boat or kayak. Because we had a wedding in the afternoon, we tamped down our adventurous spirits and opted for two light houses attached to man-made breakers in South Portland: Bug Light and Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.
And let me tell you, the visits were so much more than I anticipated: More sweaty. More claustrophobic. More taxing than I dreamed possible.
I won’t delve too deeply into the specifics—like the fearsome caverns I hopped across, or the realization that the only bathroom available to me was a hole in the floor over a spray of ocean, or even the terrifying moment I wondered how they would lower me down and out through that little hole in the floor once I fainted from heatstroke.
What I do want to dwell on, and what I’ve been contemplating for the last 48 hours, is this: It’s hard work saving lives. I know. That’s not really an impressive realization, is it? But the stark reality of lighthouse management declares this truth again and again. Back in the day, that little light refracted by a few Fresnel lenses needed constant management. Every two hours pulleys were reset; each lighthouse had its own light pattern to attend to and a fog horn to ready. Hollywood can romanticize the lonely lighthouse all it wants, but the honest truth is that keeping a lighthouse wasn’t a job for the faint of heart. It took uncompromising dedication; it was a job full of sacrifice and sweat and sleepless nights.
Which leads to the last bit of truth I was reminded of this week: We Christians are called to be lighthouses to the world; we are designed to shine the light of Christ into the darkness, to signal for Him. We’re not only given the light of life, the light that saves lives, but we’re also supposed to be leading others to safe harbor.
A lighthouse is ineffective without a keeper; its light goes out if no one tends it. Thanks be to God that He sent a lighthouse keeper to live inside of us; the Holy Spirit Himself, who keeps our flame bright—resetting the pulleys and cleaning the cloudy glass of our lives. Thanks be to God that He not only provides the flame but also tends it, feeding it with His Word and sacraments. May we, by God’s design, shine brightly for life and for HIM!