We’ve all been there . . . . Imagining ourselves pausing at the top of the palace stairway preparing to descend into the ball . . . . . and everyone – men and women alike – becomes silent, stops dancing and turns to gaze at the shimmering vision (you or me) at the top of the stairway. You may deny it, but every little girl, every young lady, maybe every grown woman, dreams to have her “Cinderella” moment.
Maybe it’s not Cinderella at the top of the stairway – – – maybe it’s belting out a spectacular song at church or on stage. It could be giving a memorable speech to inspire those within hearing to act or change or persevere. And then there is the crowning of Miss America or receiving an amazing award for your efforts, being spotlighted on the news or your local paper for your endeavors, receiving a well-deserved promotion or raise or bonus – – – simply being at the center of another such “momentous” occasion.
We want to sparkle and shine. We want to stand out. We want to be noticed and feel special. We want to be appreciated. We want our hard work and our creativity and talents to be recognized. It isn’t wrong to feel this way – it is very natural. It is a very human need.
We want to be the beautiful, glistening, golden sparkler breaking through the darkness for the 4th of July celebration or commencement of a new year.
Yet, more often than not – – – as women, as wives and mothers, especially as mothers of young children – – – we don’t feel like we are sparkling at all; at anything. Instead, we see ourselves as the plain, vanilla, white, unscented, unsparkling little utility candle just trudging along through life, doing what needs to be done and keeping everyone and everything else afloat (or “aflame” as the case may be).
So let’s take a minute and compare the two – the beautiful, glittering, enchanting sparkler versus the ordinary, unspectacular, hardly-noticed utility candle.
Yes, sparklers are eye-catching for sure. They create a sensational display of light and action. They spring to life in glistening cascades of gold and silver, sometimes blue and red. Their name describes their effect perfectly! They shimmer and flash, glow and expand in vibrant, animated waterfalls of light. Kids love them – – – they write their names in mid-air in glittering letters of light. Sparklers help celebrate weddings, birthdays, new years and freedom. They are fun and special – who is not drawn to their joyous display?
But, as Shakespeare so notably observed: “All that glitters is not gold!” (Bet you thought that was from a song and not a line in The Merchant of Venice.)
Simply put, things are not always as they appear.
What happens to those beautiful sparklers? They last only for a short time – then they burn out, never to be ablaze again. If you’ve ever picked up a sparkler soon after it has gone out and you pick it up by the wrong end, you will get burned. What may appear to be shiny and spectacular wears out or burns out or is only exceptional for a short time. Then the sparkle disappears. The festive light is only useful and enjoyable for a short time. It’s “15 seconds of fame” passes on into darkness.
If the lights go out – – – if you need to find your way in the darkness – – – you will not be looking for the nearest sparkler!
Instead, you need a utility candle! Plain and simple – literally!
While a sparkler, by its very nature, is eye-catching and extraordinary – – – not so a utility (or service) candle.
You’ve seen them – they are in the home goods section near flashlights and batteries. They are inexpensive and come in a plain box, all packed together laying identically side by side. They don’t look special or spectacular or particularly attractive.
They are used for power outages and candlelight services. They are useful when needed. Why?
Because they are dependable and reliable and serviceable and trustworthy and faithful and necessary and helpful and useful and unremarkable and steadfast. They don’t make a splash – they simply, clearly, honorably, quietly and dutifully do their job. They provide consistent, uninterrupted, useful light. They are beneficial and effective and, in times of darkness and great need, of the utmost value. They don’t burn out quickly or easily. They sustain and endure. They work, they serve, they persevere.
Now, consider the two: a stupendous, sensational sparkler or a basic, unadorned utility candle.
Which would you want in your corner in times of darkness or need, sadness or lack of energy? Which would you want as a friend or a co-worker? Which as a wife or a mom?
I once heard a story of a young woman who began attending a church and asked for a job to do – any job. She wasn’t demanding or particular. It just so happened that earlier on the same day she asked if there was something she could do, some way she could help, someone had observed “All the little pencils on the back of the pews seem to be becoming dull. I think we should ask someone to sharpen them when they have the chance.” So, when asked if that was a task she wouldn’t mind doing, she joyfully got to work sharpening each and every pew pencil in the sanctuary.
Now, if you attend church, you know that generally during the week the sanctuary is empty and quiet, probably darkened. But that didn’t stop this young lady. She took it upon herself in the weeks following to make sure the little pencils were sharpened during the week so they would be in good shape to use the following Sunday. As she became familiar with the church and the people who attended, her mid-week pencil sharpening task took a little longer. Why? Because she would stop and take the time to pray for the people she knew sat in the same area each week or for the new folks who would possibly attend the following Sunday. She was not singing a solo, or teaching a class or any other “in front of people” responsibility. She was quietly, reliably, faithfully, usefully sharpening the little pencils and praying. She was like the little utility candle – not sparkling and fading – but shedding constant, consistent light along her remarkable (and most likely, anonymous) way.
So, moms of young children, stay-at-home moms, working moms, women – young and old – who steadfastly and faithfully, quietly and reliably do the task at hand – – – hang on! Women who persevere without sparkle or fanfare – but with love and commitment, faith and uprightness – – – you are to be celebrated and honored. Not for the “Cinderella at the top of the palace stairs” moments of life, but for the daily, mundane, necessary acts of devotion and service to your children, spouses, homes, families, work-places, churches and communities.
The light-shedding, sustaining, nurturing gift of life-long service to those around us is without question a little duller than a sparkling, celebratory, 15-minutes of fame life – but the results – the “sparkling” results of faithful service and dedication are beyond compare.
Certainly – in a momentary flash of thought – anyone would rather be a sparkler! But – – – in the end – – – with wise and timely reflection – – – the life of a little utility candle is preferable to any glittery, few seconds of glory that fizzles out in the end. The enduring, encouraging, sustaining light of a life of quiet commitment, service and grace shines on and on when all else fades.
Thought to Ponder: In the middle of the mundane, monotonous, never-ending “little” tasks of our daily lives, can we find joy and gratitude for the endurance and persistence of a life of service that seems rather “lame” and insignificant during the long hours and days, but outlasts and outshines any momentous acts of grandeur that quickly fizzle and fade with the passage of time?