Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.
The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire
Try now we can only lose
And our love become a funeral pyre.
–The Doors, Light My Fire
I think Jim Morrison and the prophet Isaiah, though writing centuries apart from one another, are singing the same song.
“Come on baby, light my fire, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon you,” Jim and Isaiah could croon in perfect harmony. In the depth of these winter months, it’s a great time to ponder the darkness that we sit in – that darkness that we all experience, not just outside our window, but inside our hearts and minds.
Darkness is something lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are intimately familiar with. We’re so tight with darkness, our eyes have fully adjusted, and any glimmer of light can often be blinding to us – and send us scurrying back to the familiar safety of the darkness.
We’ve spent so much time in the darkness of our own closets, hiding who we really are, hiding our sexuality or our gender identity behind a mask of heterosexual or gender conformity that we often convince ourselves we can be happy in the dark place. No light needed, thank you very much. Too much light can mean too many secrets revealed – which can mean some harsh realities like jobs lost, friends lost, families torn apart, churches set toward schism.
“No thanks,” we often say, “we’re pretty comfortable here in the dark. Don’t light our fire, baby.”
But, God calls us to come out of the darkness, and not to slink out in shame, but to “arise, shine!” We are called to come boldly out of the darkness of our closets – to stop hiding, to stop feeling ashamed of who God has created us to be.
Make no mistake, the world loves it that we often prefer darkness to light. If we stay locked up in our dark closets, the world doesn’t have to deal with us. The world – the church, society, governments, our families and friends – can continue to pass laws against our very lives and write church doctrines (and reinforce old ones) that keep us second class citizens in society and in the pew. Stay in the dark, they tell us, we have no desire for you to arise, let alone shine.
But, shine we must, no matter what the cost. We don’t go it alone, though. The Holy is promising not just to light our fire, but to be there with us whenever the world reacts poorly to our courage to arise and shine. Time is of the essence, though, as Morrison reminds us. Our time to hesitate is through, we can no longer remain in the mire of our shame – a shame given to us by the world, and not by God. If we remain in the mire, it’s our funeral – we’re the ones who willingly kill off our divinity – our true selves – all for the sake of not making waves.
But, light is all about making waves. Light travels in waves and washes over any darkness in its path. This is how LGBT Christians are called to live in this world – as light that washes away the darkness. To be that light we must first be aware of the light within us – that divinity that the Holy bestows upon each of us. God has created us as we are, as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children of God. When we were created, God proclaimed us to be good and blessed.
It is the world, often led by the church, that tries its best to snuff out our light, or do its best to convince us that our light is somehow “disordered” or in need of fixing. But, no matter how many lampshades we may try, our light is not designed to be muted, denied or changed. Instead, our light is meant to arise and shine. We are called to live into God’s glory for our lives and we can only do that when we live as God created us to be.
The world, often led by the church, will do what it can to keep you in that dark place of shame, but the Holy is ever present, waiting to strike that match whenever we pray: “C’mon, baby, light my fire.”
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.