At a recent family function, we were all discussing some of our neighbors' odd landscaping habits. Toward the end of the conversation, my brother turned to me and said, "...and then there's that guy with the lighthouse."
I didn't have one clue what he was talking about.
Me: What lighthouse?
Brother: You know. That huge lighthouse.
Me: What huge lighthouse?
Brother: The big stone one.
Me: I don't know what you're talking about.
Brother: On Hawthorne.
Me: There's no big stone lighthouse on Hawthorne.
Brother: Yes there is.
Me: Well, I've never seen it...
Brother: Try driving around the Hawthorne loop later. You can't miss it.
Me: I've done the Hawthorne loop like a hundred times. That's where I go running.
Brother: You run??
Me: Okay, it's where I go jogging. But still. Where did you say it was?
Brother: In the middle of someone's yard. And it's big, too. You couldn't have missed it.
Me: How big? Four feet? Five feet? As tall as a person?
Brother: No, we're talking like twelve feet. At least.
Sister-in-law: Or taller.
Me: No way.
Sister-in-law (helpfully): And it has a working light in it and everything.
Brother: Go out and check in the evening some time. Then the light will make it really easy to spot.
Me: BUT I GO RUNNING--
Brother: (brow raise)
Me: --I MEAN JOGGING--IN THE EVENING!
Brother: Well, I don't know what else to say.
Neither do I.
When I went out to exercise the next evening, there it was: halfway back the Hawthorne loop, in the middle of someone's yard, I saw a fully-functioning stone lighthouse, complete with a circling beam sweeping the yard and the street.
Somehow, unbelievably, I'd missed the lighthouse.
I could easily blame this on the fact that I'm so "in the zone" when I exercise that I block out all distractions, but that wouldn't exactly be true. I struggle with exercise in general, and I have no discernible zone, unless mentally crying and praying for death counts as a "zone." And I've noticed plenty of odd things while out jogging, such as the time I found a dead bird in a sandwich bag in the middle of the street.
The sad reality is that somehow I managed to run past a twelve-foot high, functioning lighthouse hundreds of times without realizing that it was there. Not only that, I tried to argue with the people who told me of its existence.
Which makes me wonder what else I've failed to notice, and whose true advice I've failed to heed.
Subtle relationship cues?
A friend in need?
A chance to help?
I certainly don't.
Since this incident, "missing the lighthouse" has become a sort of mental shorthand for me, especially when I'm in prayer. Although in Christian circles the concept of "missing the lighthouse" is generally used to express the danger of missing the warnings that God provides, and thereby facing potential spiritual shipwreck, for me it has come to mean something slightly different.
For me, "missing the lighthouse" means missing the big, obvious tasks that God has put in my path, but that for whatever reason, I've failed to notice despite their being twelve feet tall and pulsing with light.
Lord, please. Don't let me miss the lighthouse.
_ _ _ _
Full disclosure: The lighthouse in the picture is not the one in my neighborhood. That is Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, and if you want to know what my friend Karen is doing, you're going to have to ask her.