Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Unexpected light

Unexpected light

The candle appears like an apparition in my darkened room, aglow without a flame.

I have just returned home from a trip and opened the door to my bedroom. Not having central air conditioning, we tend to pull down the shades on a hot day. But despite that, the sun has found a way in – sneaking sideways, slanting to catch the candlestick on our dresser and startling me with its illuminating illusion.

Light delights me.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that light is one of the ways that God gets my attention from day to day. Of course, there are the grand sunsets. Who could overlook them? And there are the man-made lights, strategically designed and placed to charm us.

But the light that most captivates me is that which, like with the candle, comes unbidden, unexpectedly, into an unlikely space. By reflection. By refraction. As if by magic.

This odd rectangle appeared on my ceiling one day, and only one day. It has the vague look of a robotic Cyclops from some German silent film. Metropolis meets my living room.

Scripture tells us that “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) Jesus is the “true light, which gives light to everyone.” (John 1:9) And the Spirit appears as tongues of fire over the apostles. (Acts 2:3) Where God is, light abounds.

But the opposite is true. Darkness, in the Bible, represents being outside the presence of God. Because of that, I think we lose something when we translate Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” The alternate reading is more powerful: “the valley of deepest darkness.” I think David is contemplating any time when the road ahead looks as if it takes us beyond the presence of God. When we feel utterly alone.

“You are with me.” Even there. In the darkness. When God seems nowhere to be found. Even there, light intervenes.

This is why I love unexpected light. Like this beam that appeared in my studio some months ago. I half expected the central burst to scamper away when I approached for a close up. It lingered long enough to infuse a little wonder and happiness into my day.

Unexpected light reminds me of the presence of God. No place is too dark or too unlikely for him to illuminate.

Lord, we thank you for the light you provide. Slow-building sunrises. Glorious sunsets. But we are also grateful for the surprising rays you throw across our paths, reminding us that you are present wherever we are. And your love can brighten any moment.

Thoughts or comments on this column? I’d love to hear from you. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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