Before the first lighthouse was built, beacon fires were lit as we see in the Iliad and the Odyssey as well as in the stories and movies for “The Lord of the Rings”. It would be in Alexandria that the first lighthouse would be built. Known as Pharos of Alexandria, this first lighthouse stood 350 feet high.
The Romans would go on to build many more as their empire expanded far beyond Rome. A fragment of a Roman lighthouse still exists in Dover, England.
Century by century modernization of lighthouses occurred to the present day, lighting the way for those out to sea, serving a vital purpose.
Long before GPS guided navigation, these sentinels stood at the place where the land and the sea meet, never wavering in their service with the faithful men and women who kept the beacons lit.
I have visited lighthouses along the east coast of the United States while on various vacations. Some of my favorites mark the beautiful coast of Maine. Each lighthouse appears unique in its design and the terrain on which it stands. My favorites include Bass Harbor Lighthouse, the Cape Neddick Light, and Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Maine.
If all the stories linked to each lighthouse were compiled into books, I wonder how many volumes there would be and how many shelves would be needed to hold them.
Reading in Lisa Wingate’s marvelous book, The Prayer Box, set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina brought back memories of lighthouses we visited there and reminded me once again that we, you and I, are called to be light (perhaps lighthouses) for those lost at sea.
The description Lisa Wingate pens in The Prayer Box reminds me of important truths:
“What does a lighthouse do? I ask myself. It never moves. It cannot hike up its rocky skirt and dash into the ocean to rescue a foundering ship. It cannot calm the waters or clear the shoals. It can only cast light into the darkness. It can only point the way. Yet, through one lighthouse, you guide many ships.”
What clarity these words bring to those we find in Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV):
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
The lighthouse isn’t rushing about from one place to another. It stands consistently where its designer places it and its light points the way. Those at sea are the ones that must move to avoid disaster and destruction.
To be a lighthouse is to keep the light burning even if we do not see beyond the place we stand. To be a lighthouse is to know the singular call to provide light when darkness, dense fog, and storms would seek to shroud the light. To be a lighthouse is to draw attention to the light within it rather than the lighthouse.
How simply these truths remind us of what it means to be called by Jesus to be light, but how clearly they also underscore the need for light to be ever emanating from our lives. We never know when someone lost in darkness may be hoping to glimpse even the smallest light to give direction and hope.
Near the end of his earthly ministry Jesus told his disciples a parable about how vital it is to keep the light (the oil) in our lamp from running out, from going dark. The parable in Matthew 25 speaks of wise virgins whose lamps are filled and lit, but also warns of foolish virgins whose lamps have gone dark.
Tending the light within us is not a casual admonition.
Let us not forget that even though we may not see those who are searching for a light, we are called to be a lighthouse consistently allowing HIS light to shine so He can be seen.
“Yet, through one lighthouse, you guide many ships.”