Lighting the Way

detroitriverlightI’ve been thinking about lighthouses lately. Living in Michigan, I guess this was bound to happen. Lighthouses—both real and decorative ones—are ubiquitous here.

I recently visited someone on the twenty-fourth floor of a downtown Detroit office building overlooking the Detroit River. My eye was drawn to a spot a bit north. “Is that a lighthouse?” I asked, my voice filled with wonder and excitement. “I guess,” came the disinterested reply. Just one more lighthouse, ho hum.

For me, though, lighthouses have a taken on a new significance. I love the symbolism of the beacon lighting up the darkness and showing the way. I love that people once lived inside the lighthouses, and I wonder what it was like to be the one who sent out the light.

I find myself noticing lighthouses wherever I go.

I buy Detroit’s dog food at a bait shop near Lake St. Clair. Standing by the door is a five-foot tall, black-and-white striped lighthouse. When I admired it to the owner, he told me it was there when he bought the business and it was too heavy to move. Move? I thought. Why would anyone want to move it? To me, it is the perfect decoration for a business connected with the water (buying dog food at a bait shop is a story for another day though).

My new home is near the Lake, and last summer a local community organization acquired twenty-four concrete lighthouses as part of an art project. Each lighthouse was adopted by a business, civic group, school or nonprofit and then decorated by that organization. Each is distinctive, a unique interpretation of lighting the way.


All of the lighthouses I see remind me of lights in my life, people who have helped me through dark times, who helped me make course adjustments when I needed them, who have been steady guides along my path, each one in a unique way.

Lent starts tomorrow, and one of my daily Lenten practices will be to recall one of the people who has been a light for me—one a day for forty days. I will pray for them, thank God for them and also let them know how grateful I am for their presence in my life.

I hope I never become complacent about the lighthouses dotting the lakes that frame Michigan or the people God has sent to light my path.

8 thoughts on “Lighting the Way

    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Deb, Your email the other day sparked part of this reflection. I shared it with a co-worker and she suggested I hold onto it for “the dark times.” thanks so much for your support.


    Hi Madeline,

    Thank you for sharing your plan to honor those who have been “lighting the way” in you life.   Tomorrow night our church (Swarthmore United Methodist) after our Ash Wednesday service will start a 24 hour prayer vigil. I really appreciated your idea of thinking about a special person that has helped you. I now have a plan to begin thinking about those who have shined a light in my life during my time on the vigil. You are on my list . What a special idea, I will try to be disciplined and continue through-out lent. I love lighthouses too. T’Bumbles has a make it yourself light house, that I thought would be fun to make.


    Anne Hansen

  2. Sister Anne Marie Lom

    I have often used the lighthouse as a symbol for discernment. Several “site lines” have to line up before we are guided safely. We need several sources of reflection and input before we can see we “discerned” something. Thanks for helping me to recall that image.

  3. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    Anne Marie, another piece of the lighthouse “story” is that despite the beacon lighting the way, in stormy waters, boats sometimes still crash! Just like in discernment, despite best efforts at openness and receptivity, at gathering as many perspectives as possible and reading all the signs, sometimes our course is one step off to the left or right, and that step makes all the difference. I am thinking of when I moved to l’Arche and all the signs pointed that way, but, in retrospect, I am not sure it was the path I needed to follow (of course, I learned a lot from it, etc.). It is that fourth pane of the window–the one that only God knows–that trips me up sometimes. I forget I don’t have all the information, no matter how diligent I am. The lights along the way, though, are just that–guiding lights.
    thanks for sharing.


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