One morning I was leaving early, turned on the foyer light and a bulb blew. Since I am afraid of heights, I recruited my son, Ed, to replace the bulbs. We decided to replace all the bulbs with extra-long life bulbs. Then he offered to clean the glass of the chandelier.
It was difficult to reach since the ladder was not as tall as I would have liked. He straddled the ladder and cleaned all the glass in the chandelier. It looked almost brand new.
The next morning, I was leaving early (I always leave before 6am) and turned on the hall chandelier. My neighbors across the street woke up when the light shone through the big window. Charlotte Douglas International Airport started calling me because airplanes were wondering if the light was directing them to a new runway. It was so bright you could land a 747 airplane in my driveway. I stared at the light. It wasn’t bright; it was awesome bright. You could say it was too bright.
Over 20 years, I had gotten used to bulb after bulb burning out, and I could still see to safely get down the steps. Although it would be more noticeable after each bulb burned out, I would quickly adjust to the foyer being slightly dimmer. Not a significant amount, just a little bit, but enough that you can notice it.
I think the same could be said of our lives. No one wakes up and says, “Today is the day I am going to mess up my life.” It begins with small steps (or individual light bulbs going dead). An addict doesn’t wake up today with a goal of this being the day he will relapse. Instead, over the course of weeks, he stops going to his AA meetings, stops talking to his AA sponsor, hangs out with people who are in active addiction, and then wonders how he could relapse with five years’ clean time.
The same is true when someone has an affair. It starts with sharing something personal about your marriage with someone who is not your spouse. It’s having dinner with that person and complaining about your spouse. It progresses to having dinner with that person and talking about hopes and dreams. It may start with a brief hug but ends up in a full-blown affair.
It is a series of small decisions that leads to a personal crisis. When one lightbulb blew, we were fine. We were up to five out of 12 light bulbs blown. We could still safely navigate the steps. We just got used to it. It became the “new normal.”
It’s amazing how we rationalize those small decisions. We think, “I’m mad at my AA sponsor for telling me the truth, so I am not going to call him.” It sounds like the youth who says under his breath toward his parents, “I’ll show you. I’ll mess up my life and surely, you’ll be upset.” Guess whose life you just messed up?
We don’t want to know the truth. We think we can rationalize an affair because our spouse has not been intimate with us for some time.
I’ve learned that darkness cannot survive in the light. When I am honest with what I am doing or not doing, when I allow God’s shining light to show the motivation for why I am doing it, that’s when I get healthy.
Remember, if you come to my house at night, wear sunglasses. The bulbs were replaced and the glass is clean. The light in the foyer is as bright as it was 20 years ago when we built the house.
I’ll be back in a few weeks. Until then, live well, my friend.
Rev. Tony Marciano is the Executive Director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. He is available to speak to your group. Go to www.charlotterescuemission.org and go to contact