Surrender 118: A Story About the Red Light

Today is Tell a Story Day. What’s funny is, I didn’t know that when I woke up. And yet I arose with a story running through my head, a true story, that still amazes me when I think about it. This week I’m encountering a reoccurring theme of Light, of letting my light shine.  And this event in my life was about that very thing. I checked today’s holidays this afternoon, and when I saw it was Tell a Story Day, understanding dawned. I was being invited to share this story about Light. I surrendered. 

The Red Dot

I got lost in a church basement once. It was a windowless basement with a maze of hallways and rooms that opened off of other rooms. Night was falling outside and I was the last person in the building. I moved through the large church, making sure doors were locked and lights were turned off.

For some reason, as I trotted downstairs, I left the stairwell light turned on, and turned off lights as I moved deeper and deeper into the basement. I thought that the fixture above the stairs would cast enough light for me to be able to find my way back, and besides, I was familiar with the layout of the warren of rooms.

In the room farthest from the stairs, which opened off of a series of rooms, I gathered up books left scattered across a table top, and using my elbow, turned off the last light. I stepped through the doorway and took four or five steps into a larger room before coming to a stop. Complete darkness surrounded me. I couldn’t see a thing. The silence seemed to weigh upon me as I stood there. I grew up with a strong fear of the dark. In that moment, it didn’t matter that I was deep in the recesses of a church…an icy dread gripped my heart.

I walked forward, straining to see in the blackness, hoping that a glimmer of light would reveal the doorway into the next room and the hallway beyond. Just as my brain was telling me I had walked too far, I ran into a wall. That startled me. I turned to the right and took two steps and bumped into a row of lockers. Now panic set in. The room I was supposed to be in didn’t have lockers in it. Somehow, in the dark, I had blindly passed through a doorway and was now in another room.

I threw the books to the floor and groped for the door. I found a doorway but couldn’t locate a light switch. Confused and disoriented, I stumbled around, not knowing where I was or which way I needed to go. At last I came to a stop, my heart pounding. The darkness and silence seemed menacing now. I considered screaming and wondered if anyone outside, who happened to be walking by, would hear me. I didn’t think so. I imagined people coming to church Sunday and finding me curled in a fetal position on the floor.

As anxiety grew in me, I cried out, one word, “Help.” Immediately, a small red dot appeared, glowing faintly in the darkness. My heart beat even harder. What was that? My fear of being lost in the blackness was greater than my fear of the red dot. I crept toward it, moving through a doorway and into the basement kitchen. The glowing red light was on the stove. There was not enough light to illuminate the room, but it was enough for me to get my bearings. Feeling my way along the countertop, I found the door that led to the hallway and then to the stairs. My hands were still trembling as I locked the front door.

What was the red light that appeared on the stove in the basement? After I calmed down at home, I began to worry. I realized what I had seen was an indicator light, and that meant the oven must be on. I didn’t want the oven to remain on until Sunday. What if there was a fire? Reluctantly, I returned to the church, and the basement, turning on every light I could find as I wound my way to the kitchen below. When I checked the stove, the red indicator light was not on. Nor was the oven warm. The stove was completely cold. 

I still get a fluttery feeling in my gut when I tell that story. I have no explanation for how that tiny red light winked on precisely when I needed it to. Except, I asked for help and help was given. 

The message is clear though. As dark as that basement was, it isn’t the darkest place I’ve ever been. We’ve all had times of despair, times of feeling lost in the dark with no clue which way to turn to find our way out. I’ve been there. I never know who is standing near me, silently crying out for help, straining to see more clearly. It is so important that I allow my light to shine, for the joy I feel in doing so, and to cast out a ray of hope for someone groping in the darkness of fear or isolation. 

In truth I am a conduit for Divine light to flow through me. The little red light on the stove lit up as a result of the energy that surged through it. It didn’t create light on its own. It responded and glowed. And I saw it, gratefully, and I was drawn to it.  The red dot led me to the path I sought and I found my way. 

My desire is to draw, to walk alongside for a time, to point out the path for those who are searching, without letting myself get in the way. Just shine. Just be who I am. Just glow with the flowing Light of the Divine. 

I am a red dot.