Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Candles and Cast Iron

My kitchen is full of objects that tell the story from whence I came.

A black cast iron skillet that stays on the stove top once held permanent residence in the kitchen of my grandmother. Southern comfort food was served from that skillet for years on the farm my father was raised.

 I run hot water, squirt dish soap, and wipe a rag over white dishes rimmed in blue flowers; it is a ritual that the hands of my mother's mother performed who knows how many times on these same thin plates.


I sometimes wonder about how I see scripture. Literally - how I see it - how certain words pop off the pages I've read countless times and how some of them seem to blur into the black text on the thin white pages, unremarkable.

My field of vision is illuminated by candlelight.  Small flickering flames only lighting part of the page.

One candle for each life experience. One candle that is that memory verse I learned as a child about Jesus being the light of the world.  There is also the candle I earned when life taught me about regret and betrayal and remorse.  That light flickers over words that tell of smoldering wicks that will not be quenched.  Another candle, one that smells of hyssop, joins the crowd. And then there is the group of three, powerful in their communal strength, one candle for each time I prayed for that thorn to be removed and they shine light on the words about pain and anguish. One more standing stronger still near them -this one all about lighting up grace.


I didn't know my grandmothers well.

One was 15 hours away. The other six. The one further away made the journey to visit us about once a year. We returned the favor about the same, with waning frequency the older my brothers and I got. The closer one was afforded a few more visits. I have a few more memories of farm life and her mannerisms than I do the other. But, I didn't know my grandmothers.

Yet, it is important to me, significant, to use their kitchen ware. It is important to me to feel connected to this part of my past in some tangible way. To remember the lives of women who each had their victories and struggles. Somehow it reminds me that I am not an independent being sprung from nothingness. My immediate family did not poof into existence. There is history and blood and legacy - for good and bad. My life is enriched in the remembrance of such.


The most beautiful thing is: I'm not the only one with candles. I did not spring into faith from nothingness. There are countless women and men who have held their bundle of candles through the centuries. From pillars of fire in the dessert to the flames that consumed the bodies of saints of old, the legacy of this faith has passed from generation to generation. It has been refined and explained. Abused and muddled. It is a long legacy and all of these people have left their lights, shining on the pages of scripture, shining on my life. They are a chandelier: thousands upon thousands of flames, a great cloud of lights above me.

And if I take the time to look, I will see them teach me, "Here is how we light the candle - how we've done it for centuries."

My cluster of candles do provide more light than only a single one, but it's nothing compared to the disorienting, but ultimately brilliant glow of the gathered candles of all the saints.