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The Rev. Martin Copenhaver The Rev. Martin Copenhaver

The Rev. Martin Copenhaver is president of Andover Newton Theological School, an ordained United Church of Christ minister, and the author of several books.

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Martin Copenhaver: Searchlights and Penlights

October 06, 2017

"The discerning person looks to wisdom, but the eyes of the fool to the ends of the earth." - Proverbs 17:24

Sister Helen Prejean, the Roman Catholic nun who wrote the book Dead Man Walking, said in a lecture, "I'm always asking God for a searchlight.  But, instead, God gives me a penlight."

I nodded my head because that has been my experience, as well.  I am always looking for the searchlight that lets me see every turn in the road and how the journey ends even before I start.  You see, I am a planner by nature.  I'm the guy who carries around a multi-year calendar that includes events or commitments three years from now.  I want to see as far ahead as I possibly can.  So, in one way or another, I am always asking for a searchlight.

Instead, most of the time, God gives me something more like a penlight, which offers just enough illumination to see where I can plant my foot next-but no more.  Walking by penlight forces one to be patient with the unknown and to exercise a bit of trust.  And that can be challenging.

Even when I was young, I wanted the searchlight and had to learn how to walk by penlight.  When I, or another member of my family of origin, was consumed with a decision and uncertain how to proceed, my mother would say, "When the time comes, it will be clear."  When I was young, I resisted her counsel.  I had difficulty with the "when the time comes" part and, to be honest, I still do.  How about now?  What's wrong with now?

Now that I am older, however, when I am impatient with the slow unfolding of events, I can still hear my mother's voice say, "When the time comes, it will be clear."  And, over time, I've learned that she was right.


God, if I can't have the searchlight, show me how to walk by penlight.


From UCC's StillSpeaking Devotionals

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