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We Are the Prism

"There are two ways of spreading light, to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."

- Edith Wharton

Rabbi David Wolpe has a different take on this.  While he doesn't make reference to the Wharton quote, he does describe ministry in another light-spreading metaphor.  Reflecting on one of his earliest experiences in ministry, he tells of being called to the hospital bedside of a dying woman, to say the prayers for the dead.  She was comatose, but he took her hand anyway, and began.

He felt like a fraud.  Who was he to shepherd a soul to the edge of the next world?  Yet, he proceeded to say the familiar words anyway, and let the words carry him.

Talking to his wife about it afterward, he confessed his feelings of inadequacy.

You're right, she said.  You're unworthy.  Anyone would be unworthy doing such a thing.  That's OK, though.  It's not you doing it.  It's being done through you.

Wolpe writes:

"That was a pivotal moment for me.  Suddenly it became clear to me that we bring light into this world not as a source but as a prism -- it comes through us.  As electricity requires a conduit, so spirit moves through human beings to touch others in crucial moments…. As soon as I stepped out of my own way, the prayer felt real.  I could believe in blessing when I felt that it did not depend on me.  A musician translates the notes on the page into music; she is not their source, but their medium."

- Rabbi David J. Wolpe, Why Faith Matters (HarperOne, 2008), p. 111.