What is holding us back from letting our light shine?


By Jenna Ebener
A reflection

Last month, I reflected on the darkness of Lent. Today, I am going to focus on the light that comes out of Lent. When we allow ourselves to sit in darkness, then we truly appreciate and see the light. I remember pondering the joy of light this past Christmas season. On many of my evening walks, I reveled in the beauty of the countless Christmas lights I would see. I thought about how putting up Christmas lights on your house or balcony is a gift, not for you, but for others.

Being inside your house much of the time, you likely see your own lights far less often than others see them. Yet, every year, it seems like I see more houses with lights. It is a subtle yet beautiful way to give back to others. Similarly, I am reminded that when we let our personal light shine, we become a gift to others.

When we move through our own personal darkness and let go of the negative impacts of our society, such as caring what others think about us, our light is able to shine. That light allows us to accept all of the characteristics we were born with and acted on until we became old enough to care, such as expressing our emotions, authenticity and vulnerability. I cannot think of a better example than every time I volunteer at a monthly event for adults with intellectual disabilities.


At this event, there is always karaoke. My sense of wonder is renewed as I watch these wonderful, middle-aged adults singing with passion. They often sing the same song each month, stare at the ground and forget the words or are hard to understand, but they do not care. All they care about is getting up there and singing something that is meaningful to them. Each time they perform, it is like they are winning an Oscar. No matter what mood I am in before entering, I cannot help but leave smiling. They remind me of the importance of being true to yourself and not caring about how others perceive you.

I wish we all could live with that kind of authenticity and simplicity. Too often, we get stuck and fall into the pattern of “fitting in.” We turn towards darkness instead of releasing our light. By striving to fit in, we dim our light and, worse, get so used to dimming our light that we can feel like it is wrong to show it. As expressed by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

“As we embark on the light of Easter, we might ask ourselves, ‘What is holding me back from letting my light shine?”

(Jenna Ebener, a graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is a social worker at a school in Colorado for students with a combination of medical, cognitive and behavior disabilities. She relies on God every day to aid her on this wonderful, yet intense journey.)

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