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Light

I wonder if you've heard of the condition known as SAD? SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It generally affects people with the changes of the seasons and is a kind of depression. I suffer from SAD and while changes in temperature can get me down it's the lack of warm, bright sunlight that impacts me the most. If you were to spend a cold, drab, overcast day with me you would notice that I'm much more withdrawn, flat and not overly energetic or sociable. However, if the sun happened to appear, you might notice an almost instant change in my mood, energy and willingness to engage in lively conversation. In researching SAD, I came across special lamps that simulate sunlight and can help maintain the body's circadian rhythm. The one that I purchased (and still use) has a warm, bright white option and a blue light option that is like a clear blue sky on a sunny day (white can be used throughout the day whereas it is suggested that blue is used for a short time in the mornings).


It's amazing to think of the impact that light can have on our day-to-day lives and the way we experience and engage with life. Even the quality of light can make a difference. Many of us feel drained and even get headaches from the rows and rows of fluorescent tubes hanging from supermarket ceilings or feel cold and uncomfortable when sitting in a room that is lit with cool white globes. Conversely, we have all enjoyed sitting in restaurants or cafes where the lighting is softer and has a warm glow that helps us to relax and creates a cozy, inviting environment.


At the beginning of the Creation account in the book of Genesis - God's first creative act was bringing light to the darkness that covered the formless earth.


1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
Genesis 1:1-5 (NIV)

Light is foundational and essential to healthy human existence and flourishing. And there is no Light so needful to humanity as the Light of the World, Jesus Christ:


12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12 (NIV)

Pre-Raphaelite artist, William Holman Hunt, beautifully conveys this truth in his much loved painting "The Light of the World" (the image below shows the third version by him, painted between 1900-04 which resides in St Paul's Cathedral, London).


William Holman Hunt, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


What would art be without light? What would the world be without the sun? And above all, what would become of mankind except that The Light of the World stepped into our darkness to cast His rays and the rays of His Father in Heaven across our paths and into our hearts? If the light of a flaming star can do so much good for downcast souls then how much more can the Light of God do within spirits who dwell in darkness? Those who open the door have that Eternal Flame burning gloriously within - never to be extinguished and always to comfort, illuminate and cheer.


Light in Our Homes


I'd like to close this reflection on light by considering practical and aesthetic ways that we might bring the warmth, beauty and healing power of light into our homes.


One of the simplest things we can do is to change the harsh, cool white globes around our homes with warm white globes. It's amazing the difference just doing that can make to the feel of a place! I even have a couple of special globes that block the blue spectrum of light - which I use in the evenings particularly when I want to avoid the kind of light that wakes us up rather then prepares us for sleep. Of course, candlelight will always triumph as a source of nostalgic, comforting, inspiring sparkle.


I have a number of lamps whose shades are made from stained glass. Many of us know them as "Tiffany Lamps" as Tiffany is probably the most well-known company that produces them. Glassmakers are highly skilled in creating varying tones, hues and patterns within sheets of glass and when the lamp-makers combine the various fragments of glass together in intricate designs, the overall effect can be quite heavenly.


Here are some examples from my home:






Colour and light go hand-in-hand and both interact and play a role in our mood. Amidst all my colourful lamps and decor above, you'll notice that the first lamp is blue and this brings up a good point. One might think that for someone with SAD, blue would be a colour to avoid because it's often equated with sadness but all colours, including blue, can be warm or cool. It's hard to say scientifically how this works but we can get a different feeling when looking at cool, compared to warm colours. And there is value in both. On a hot summer's day, we might appreciate those cool blues, greens and greys but in winter the warmer types tend to lift our spirits more. A warm blue can take our minds to pristine tropical beaches and a warm green might make us think of summery desserts. It's important to think about how different colours/tones will impact the mood of a place all-year-round. A cool white kitchen might be lovely in summer but come winter it may feel stark, cold and uninviting. They same could be said of greys. In our eagerness to embrace the "neutrals" trend, whites and greys have become the "go to" schemes for decorating houses. They can look lovely when done well but there is a danger that the overall effect - at least for some of the year - may inhibit rather than promote our flourishing (especially for those of us who tend to struggle with SAD). So, in these cases, we do well to consider using the warmer hues and bringing in highlight pieces that feature those brighter colours that instantly cheer the soul.


Reflective surfaces are another way of bringing the beauty, brilliance and joy of light into a space - and these can multiply the impact of the various light sources and coloured objects and surfaces nearby. Mirrors are obvious choices here but smaller items such as vases, frames, clocks, glassware and select ornaments all contribute to the spreading, reflecting and scattering of light. These were tricks used in earlier generations when nothing but candlelight was known and they continue to perform their wonders today. When surfaces are both colourful and reflective (or transparent/translucent) then the possibility for cheer increases.


I could go further and discuss artworks and furnishings and their contributions to the matters at hand but I think I shall save those for another time.


In closing, I hope that my refection on light may prove helpful to you: for those who do struggle with SAD and, in general, for those who simply feel like they would like to bring more of the nurturing qualities of light into their homes. And I pray that you may pause to reflect on the true Light of the World and His desire and ability to come in and illuminate your darkest places - to bring comfort, guidance and cheer. Be blessed.


(If you would like to share any photos of your own "light-filled" spaces, I'd love to see them!)



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