The Lighthouse has been the subject of poems, songs, legends and movies. The first recorded lighthouse was the Pharos lighthouse in Alexandria Egypt. It was built approximately 280 BC and was more than 450 ft tall. It had a giant Poseidon, (Greek god of the sea), at the top where a huge bonfire was lit each night and was visible from more than 30 miles away. It was so big that it was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This tower was used more than 1,500 years before it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1303AD. The earliest known written reference to a lighthouse is found in the Greek epic “The Iliad” dating back to 1200 BC, where descriptions are given about a forerunner of the lighthouse proper – beacon fires – which were kindled high upon hilltops.
The main purpose of the lighthouse has always been to provide a signal – Warning mariners to steer, (while they are in a dense fog or dark nights), away from cliffs, land, shorelines, coral reefs and other hazardous areas. The means by which these lighthouses can be identified is that they are different shapes and sizes, as well as being painted with different paint schemes. In addition to this, each lighthouse displays a light pattern that is unique from all the others in the area. This leads us to the second purpose for the lighthouse, which is to provide navigation, allowing mariners to know where they are in relation to the land mass that they are approaching or adjacent to. (Example: If a mariner sees a tall lighthouse with black and white stripes that are spiraled from the top down, then they know they are off the North Carolina coast town of Buxton and they are passing Diamond Shoals.) The third and final purpose of the lighthouse is to enable mariners to know how fast they are going. This is done by knowing how far apart the lighthouses are and measuring their speed by the time it takes to pass each one.
All lighthouses have the above mentioned in common, likewise the different parts that make them up are nearly identical in design all around the globe and they are as follows: A beacon (light) at the top which is in a large room with many windows (lantern room); A service room (which stores supplies); A watch room (where the keeper can watch from at night); A gallery deck; A lightning rod and a ball vent at the very top (to allow heat to escape). The other commonality is that all lighthouses are built to be sturdy and on a strong foundation, so that they will be able to withstand the elements and continue to shine brightly throughout any storm. Lighthouses continue to serve as symbols of hope to this day.
Interesting in how much something like a lighthouse can relate to our lives. I mean, how many of us have had this experience? – People in our lives that provided direction, warning and guidance. Some of the people were located in specific places so that we knew the type of direction being offered, (such as teachers, religious leaders and coaches). Some people helped us to realize the direction we were heading in, (like family, friends, and counselors), and some of these people, (like a sponsor and even people who we did not even know), provided a light in the darkness giving us hope that we were not completely lost, nor adrift and alone. What would have become of us without these lighthouses placed in our lives? Surely we would have been more severely damaged, perhaps never making it out of that state of incomprehensible demoralization and perishing in a sea of hopelessness.
It is intriguing how much the rooms of recovery are similar to lighthouses along the shores and waterways. They come in all shapes and sizes – some are small, some large, some are located in churches while still others can be found in even the most obscure of locations. Yet there they stand, a beacon shining the light of hope – not restrained to serve only some, but rather to be available to serve all who desire direction. Just as every lighthouse has a keeper in the watch room, so to do the rooms of recovery – you will find those who are always there, watching for new faces to offer help, guidance and a safe place. There are the volunteers who take the calls of those who are often lost, at all hours of the night or day, offering the light of hope in what might be their darkest hour. We have our “service rooms” which store needed supplies, including literature which lays out clear cut paths that can enable us to avert the treacherous terrain that often lies just out of our field of vision – but has been seen by those who have traveled before us.
A Pulitzer Prize winner for Poetry in 1990, (Charles Simic), wrote this quote:
Inside my empty bottle I was constructing a lighthouse while all the others were making ships.
I scanned the internet, initially attempting to understand what Simic was referring to and finding no answer. I re-read it again, allowing myself the freedom to draw from it my own interpretation, so I will share what came to me: Being an alcoholic no longer drinking, I began the process, (with the guidance and direction of my God and those whom He placed in my life), of building a lighthouse in my heart. While the rest of the world could go about its way creating and developing plans to build their proverbial ships, I would be building a lighthouse that would first require a firm foundation to be established. I had been given the opportunity to focus my attention on what I found to be of far greater value and importance…developing a relationship and reliance upon the God, (that beacon of light if you will), who would provide me with a sense of direction through all that would be seen and unseen in this life – so that when the day came to build my own ship, I would be able to have safe travels and truly enjoy the journey.
© 2011-2014 Rebecca Balko