Light a Candle

And Look into Your Heart

When we look into the heart,
May our eyes have the kindness
And reverence of candlelight.

For Light, John O’Donohue

Lighting candles has been a wonderful morning practice to intentionally open my day and spirit to the sacred place of connection with God. I love candles, so I thought, why not try candle making?  With some online instruction, a trip to the craft store, and some pretty jam jars I had been saving, I made some pretty good coffee-scented candles!

After my morning prayer time, I’ve always blown out the candles to save wax and for safety when I leave the room.  However, in my candle-making research, I found out that candles have a memory. It seems that if you blow out the flame before a full pool of melted wax reaches the sides of the container, you’ll be left with a ring of hard wax. The next time you light the candle, the flame from the wick, which heats up the wax, is not able to penetrate that wall of hard wax. So, instead of melting outwards, it begins to melt downwards, creating a tunnel! I did not know this!

This narrow tunneling can also happen in our spiritual lives when we are busy, anxious, distracted, or not slowing down and paying attention to the beauty of God in and around us. We may “light” the candle of time alone with God for a quick prayer over a meal, or listen to a podcast, or even read the Bible or a devotional in community. But often we “blow out the flame” before it really has a chance to reach the outer walls of our heart and lives.  Our brief excursions into our spiritual life build up a wall of wax, a ring of comfort, an obligation fulfilled, effectively siloing us, hindering a wider, fuller life in the presence of God.

How would you describe your spiritual journey: a limited narrow tunnel or wide open and full?

Now read this well-known story of Martha and Mary and notice the dialogue between Jesus and Martha:

 As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.” The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”

Luke 10:38-41 (MSG)

In this story, if we remember the example of how a candle tunnels, we might say that Martha also was in a habit of quickly blowing out her candle, brushing aside Jesus because of busy distractions. Using the practice of ‘imagination’ and putting myself in the gospel story, I thought about what could have happened later that night after this recorded encounter.  As a person who reacts slowly and thinks things over before responding, I could imagine that most likely it was after the dinner dishes, when it was dark and quiet, that Martha would seek out Jesus.  She had time to reflect on his words to her about seeking the good part of the Christian life, which Jesus points out is sitting and listening, focusing on quality time with the Lord. 

With tears she would come and say “I’m so sorry, Jesus, I got so busy and distracted and caught up with my stuff, but I really do want time with you to listen to your words…what would you have me do, I’m here.”  And of course, Jesus in his compassion and forgiveness would comfort her and speak the truth with love and grace, just as he also disciplines and guides us on our spiritual journeys.

Jesus might have said to her: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

MELTING WAX. In this imaginative look at the gospel story, we see how Martha melts the hard ring of wax between herself and Jesus by seeking out significant time for a genuine and transforming encounter with her Lord.

Spend a moment thinking about how you would respond to Jesus calling you out, naming what keeps you distracted from sitting and listening to the Lord. Light a candle and see how long it takes for the wax pool to reach the side of the container. Are you willing to sit and listen until it does?

PRACTICE.  Lighting candles is a sacred ritual in many cultures. You can light a candle for many purposes: to illuminate darkness, dedicate prayers, solidify intentions, offer blessings, and make space for connecting with the Divine presence. 

As a spiritual practice, try lighting a candle to slow your pace, be intentional and focused in your prayer time. You can shut out distractions by watching the flame and repeating a prayer like “Come Lord Jesus, Light of the World.”

2 Comments Add yours

  1. beth says:

    Thank you Robbi for sharing these insights. I have lit a candle this morning and am going to sit here until the wax reaches the side of the container!


  2. Atim Specioza says:

    Thank you Dr.Robbi
    This is a great tradition and we normally do it at church.


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