A Lamp and a Light

by Beverly Fabricius

“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

These words from the Book of Psalms have been spoken and sung frequently, especially after they were put to music by Amy Grant.

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I was curious as to why my husband chose these particular words for our devotion the night after he came home from a stay in the hospital. Afflicted with Huntington’s Disease, my husband often doesn’t have much to say about things. However, he knew that I was seldom at a loss for words, so after he read the verse, he dropped it there for me to play with.

“Well,” I said, “I’ve sung that verse a number of times, but I still don’t have it memorized. I can never remember whether the lamp is for my feet or for the path. And I’m never sure which comes first—my feet or the path. And why do I need both a lamp and a light? Aren’t they the same thing?”

I never did learn why my husband chose that scriptural passage, but I was glad he did, for not only do I now have it memorized correctly, but it has afforded me interesting food for thought. As a matter of fact, I have come to the conclusion that, for me, this is one of the most beautifully poetic passages in the Bible.

The first picture that came to my mind was of a path—like something from a Thomas Kinkade painting—shrouded in shadows with a muted light coming from the distance to show the way. It made me think of the walk I had taken a couple weeks before. The mid-August days were growing shorter. Nevertheless, I delayed setting out until after 9:30, hoping that the burning heat of the summer day would have dissipated. As I turned the corner heading away from our house, I realized that it was really a very dark night. As a matter of fact, when I looked down, I could barely see my white tennis shoes, let alone the sidewalk. However, I was just going around the block and knew the way well. Our neighborhood is pretty safe, so I wasn’t afraid.

However, when I reached the other side of the block, everything was very dark, and no moon was visible. All I could see were a few porch lights shining in the distance. I felt kind of excited at being all by myself on such a dark path. It’s true, I did feel a smidgen of guilt at forgetting to take my cell phone just in case something happened. Over here, everyone in the neighborhood seemed to be in bed, just like my husband, so if something were to happen to me, help would be a long time in coming.

I decided it was best to keep my stride, and so I walked on confidently at a fast clip. I could sense the sidewalk and really didn’t need light. I knew right where I was by the feel of things. I would be fine if I kept my eyes on the lights in the distance. But then . . . suddenly my toe caught on an uneven piece of sidewalk. I realized in that instant that I was going to go down with my full weight, for I reeled forward and could not correct my balance.

Not wanting to come up all scraped and bleeding, or risk breaking some bones, I dove toward the drought-hardened lawn beside the sidewalk, hoping that the grass would cushion my fall. I landed hard with the wind totally knocked out of me. After a few moments, I summoned the courage to check my knees. I couldn’t feel any wetness of blood, and although I felt stiff, nothing seemed broken. I limped home, still pretty shaken, and found my husband sleeping peacefully. I thanked God for protecting me and realized afresh that, indeed, there are angels watching over me.

The next day, I checked where I had gone down and discovered that there was a large decorative boulder on the lawn next door to the one where I had fallen. Had I hit that full force, I would have had a severe head injury and probably few teeth left. However, all I had to show for my little mishap was a nasty bruise on my hip.

I surely could have used a lamp for my feet on that night. Even though there were lights in the distance to keep me on the path, I couldn’t see my feet in the dark, let alone any uneven spots or debris on the sidewalk. That’s sort of how I walk through life. I know where the path is, but because I am gawking at the scenery or because it’s too dark where I look down, I sometimes don’t see the pitfalls until it’s too late.

Now I understand why God’s Word is both a lamp and a light. It’s not redundant after all. The light of God’s Word shines to illumine the path to heaven and keeps me going in the right direction. However, I also need something to shine by my feet to keep me from falling. As a lamp unto my feet, God’s Word highlights and warns me of immediate danger spots in my life.

How I love the light of the Gospel that draws me toward heaven, just as I love the muted light in a Thomas Kinkade painting. But I need the lamp of the Law to shine at my feet, helping me avoid mishaps and injury as I walk along the path of my life. Like a moth, I tend to flit along the path of life drawn by the promise of the Word of God and the presence of my Savior shining at the end of my path. But it is the lamp of His Word and His daily presence in my life through Holy Baptism that keep me from getting badly bruised or severely injured on the way there. The lamp and the light of His Word keep me safe, both for now and for eternity.

About the Author: Beverly Fabricius is a member of Calvary Lutheran Church, Indianapolis, Ind.

September 2010

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