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Soul Searching

Tom Saretsky


It’s OK to be cracked, to let your light shine out

In some capacity there’s a drive in all of us that seeks perfection. I’m not perfect and I’ve made many mistakes, but still, I have this irrational fear of making one. Do you fear making a mistake?

I’ve never liked the experience of losing, and I know I’m not alone in this feeling. No one likes to lose, and I’ve lost many times. Do you fear losing?

I’ve compared myself to others too often in my life, and my comparisons have led to feelings of inferiority. The only thing comparison has taught me is how much joy it steals from my life. Yet I don’t think I’m alone. I’m sure many others share a fear of not measuring up to others.

Fears abound in life. What are your fears? Do you fear the dark? The unknown? Are you fearful in general?

Despite the 365 references to “be not afraid” found in the Bible, fears remain everywhere. Sometimes fears are of our own making, and sometimes fears are not of our own choosing. My son Nathan, who is in Grade 10 now, feared the dark when he was young. He needed the bathroom or hallway light to shine through the opening of his bedroom door. His grandfather, my dad, died when Nathan was five years old. Dad liked lights, and he had interesting lights around the house, especially at Christmastime. One of the things Nathan wanted from Grandpa’s house was a flickering electric candle. It became Nathan’s most cherished light because, as he said, it reminded him of Grandpa. When I turned off Nathan’s lights at night, he would say, “Daddy, plug in Grandpa so he can keep me company.” Nathan liked the comfort of light, and that light was of particular comfort to him. 

My daughter Jenna, on the other hand, has never depended on lights. There were no ghosts and ghouls under her bed or in the closet when she was young, because she would scare them away! From when she was a baby, we never used a night light in her room. Jenna had a plastic Blessed Virgin Mary statue that faintly glowed when it got dark, but it was not like a regular night-light. Jenna used to be afraid of being alone, but she wasn’t as fearful of the dark as Nathan was. Nevertheless, she appreciated when the hallway light was on. I think, deep down, Jenna was somewhat fearful of the dark, but she just didn’t want to admit it.

When I used to check on the kids before I went to bed, I saw that their fears had surrendered to sleep. They slept peacefully and I believe the light dispelled their fears. What was ironic was how the kids would fear the dark and I would fear the light. I have this habit of keeping close to the shadows because the light can reveal my weaknesses and insecurities and mistakes for all the world to see. I don’t like being exposed that way, but that’s when the light needs to shine the brightest because light dispels darkness, light dispels fear, and light makes one stronger. 

In Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem” there’s a line that goes, “There’s a crack in everything and that’s how the light gets in.” We all depend on help from the outside, but you could also turn that quote around and say that there’s a crack in everything and that’s how the light gets out. Sometimes our weaknesses, our missteps, our mistakes and even our failures allow others in. This means that we must not be afraid of the light we shine. The rays of our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, our insecurities and even our failures can be the lights that can give someone strength and hope, confidence and even courage.

In life, we cannot masquerade as impenetrable, as mistake-free, or as “perfect.” It’s an impossible way of existence. There’s a crack in everything and, as strange as it may sound, perhaps the light that shines out through these cracks has the potential to shine into someone else’s darkened world.

We need assistance, or maybe it’s permission, to uncover, acknowledge and embrace our fears and insecurities. By doing so we will illuminate the darkness of our own lives which, in turn, will shine rays of light and hope into someone else’s life.

Saretsky is a teacher and chaplain at Holy Cross High School in Saskatoon. He and his wife, Norma, have two children, Nathan and Jenna.