January 17, 2021

A Sudden Burst of Light

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So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”

– Genesis 32:27

* * *

If you’re lucky, there comes a moment, a moment of clarity.

At this moment, “the hopes and fears of all the years” find some resolution.

It involves an unveiling. Heavy drapes of self-denial are rent in twain from top to bottom.

A  sudden burst of light, and you can see.

The game is over.

The mask is lifted.

Your hiding place discovered, there you are, naked as the day you were born.

And all it may take is a question you’ve been answering all your life. Except nobody will ever have asked it like that. Nobody will have ever looked so deep in your eyes while the pain from your wounded hip throbs and scenes from your life race through your mind.

You are Jacob. There, you said it.

And you’ve been limping ever since.

Never has your path been so straight.


  1. Does this mean you wrote the essay for ordination in the ELCA?

    Sometimes it just feels like painful limping without a burst of light and clarity. I don’t seem to receive a whole lot of personal revelation of this kind. Perhaps it’s because I’m not praying hard enough, but I kind of doubt it.

  2. Chaplain Mike, a great post! If you haven’t done so before, you need to read Parker’s Back by Flannery O’Connor.

  3. As I read this, these lyrics from U2’s “Moment of Surrender” came to mind:

    “…It’s not if I believe in love
    But if love believes in me
    Oh, believe in me

    At the moment of surrender
    I folded to my knees
    I did not notice the passers-by
    And they did not notice me

    I’ve been in every black hole
    At the altar of the dark star
    My body’s now a begging bowl
    That’s begging to get back, begging to get back
    To my heart
    To the rhythm of my soul
    To the rhythm of my unconsciousness
    To the rhythm that yearns
    To be released from control

    I was punching in the numbers at the ATM machine
    I could see in the reflection
    A face staring back at me
    At the moment of surrender
    Of vision over visibility
    I did not notice the passers-by
    And they did not notice me

    Great song, by the way. One of their best.

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