God Leaves the Porch Light on for Us
Sometimes there’s a line from a commercial that captures something profound about life. Motel 6’s line from their commercials does that for me. It says, “We’ll leave the light on for ya.”
Motel 6 began using the line in 1986. It happened by accident. The advertising agency had asked Tom Bodett, a National Public Radio personality, if he would do the commercial for them. They liked his warm and folksy voice. At the end of the first taping session, Bodett ad-libbed the now famous words: “We’ll leave the light on for ya.” The company liked the line so much, they kept it as their slogan. To this day, the line is still being used. In fact, the ad, with Bodett’s voice and the catchy music, was named one of the top 100 best advertising campaigns in the 20th Century!
I began to wonder why I like this line so much. I think it goes back to my childhood. I was raised in a semi-rural area where it got very dark at night. Streetlights were almost non-existent. Houses, often with long driveways, were few and far between. But when we pulled into our driveway after dark, we saw that light shining on the side porch. My mother had remembered to put it on before we left for the day.
That little porch light told us we were home. And we were safe. Even today, when I come home late, I’m relieved and happy to see the two porch lights on for me. The two sisters I live with remembered to put them on. The porch light means I won’t have to navigate the porch steps or fumble with my keys in the dark. What’s more, the porch light always makes me feel welcome.
This made me wonder: Does the line “We’ll leave a light on for ya,” have any relevancy for our spiritual life? Does God leave the light on for us? I think God does. I figure it this way. We are all on our way home. Sometimes our earthly journey is well-lit and easy and safe. Other times our journey is dark and difficult and scary. Maybe we can’t see clearly where we’re going. And we begin to fear we will never find our way home.
But God leaves “porch lights” on for us along our way. Often these porch lights are people—especially our family and friends. They show up just when we need them. Their words or deeds or example help illuminate our way.
Other times the porch lights can be a line from scripture, a paragraph in a
spiritual book, a sentence from a homily, a news clip about an individual who inspires us, the smile or giggle of a child, the reassuring touch of a loved one, a thoughtful gesture from a neighbor, the purr of a cat, or the sight of a maple tree decked out in bright red leaves.
Whatever form the porch light takes, it gives us courage and strength to continue on our journey home, knowing that God is with us every step of the way.
What are some of the porch lights that are helping you find your way home?
PS: A big thank you to the Sisters of the Holy Cross I met in South Bend when I facilitated their retreat last week. What a beautiful group of women! Special thanks to Sr. Mary Ellen and to Kay for helping to make the retreat run so smoothly.
PS #2: I ask your prayers for a women’s retreat I’ll be leading this weekend (Oct. 13-14) at Bergamo retreat center near Dayton, OH. Thank you!
I found this short video “by chance.” At first it sounds like an old ad for Motel 6. But it has a good message and a surprise ending…
Our song for today is “Christ Be Our Light” composed by Bernadette Farrell:
I welcome your response to this reflection, the question, the video, or the song.
I loved the story and yes the porch light always is a welcome reminder we are home.
I enjoyed the music. This song brought back memories and reminded me of our previous Parish Priest Fr. John Allen Green.
Thank you Sr Melanie
Good Morning Sr. Melanie,
The little clip about “leaving the light on” was just perfect for me this morning. It has how I picture Jesus.
Praying you have a great retreat this weekend.
Christ Be Our Light is the perfect way to start a day! Thank you,
Sister Melanie. May your day be blessed. Dorothy
That was a childhood memory. Nowadays, as you approach your garage or porch, the light comes on automatically, and is very reassuring. I get the same feeling when I approach the church parking lot and know that someone inside is waiting for me.
Beautiful! Thank you for the inspiring message. I still remember the first time I heard Christ Be Our Light, it brought the same joy and tears today. What an important message for our Church and country today! ❤️
Love the “by chance video”. Thanks Sr. Melanie, I look forward to Monday mornings to read your blog.
I loved your theme today, Sister Melannie. My “porch light” these days is Scripture and the gift of sharing it with the precious women I teach. It is the beacon that is showing me the way of living in widowhood and loneliness. But it is also my joy, my renewal in my Church and the framework for my days. Thanks for your insights each week.
Melanie, of all your blogs over the years I like this one the best. Many thanks.
Good Morning Sister Melannie,
Oh such memories you have stirred.
My childhood home had a light in the front yard and it could be seen for blocks. That light was so reassuring when coming home late at night.
Your song selection is one of my favorites!
As usual, your message is just the best way to start a day and a week.
“Leaving the light on” reminds me of The Light near the altar… it always shines. It shows me that God is always waiting for me in His sanctuary…
Sister Melannie, we sure need the light of Christ in our lives right now. We need the peace and comfort of him, every day. So much darkness in the world. Peace be with you and prayers for the retreat.
Thanks for your inspiring words, thoughts, and music.
I love “Christ be our Light…” Each Christmastime I have
a chance to ring the bell for the Salvation Army outside
of our supermarket. I feel a bit self-conscious, so I
continually sing that song quietly. It seems to bring
on more Light…
Everything about your blog today gave me comfort as I approach my heavenly home. Thank you! Keep up the good work. God surely has his hand on you and this work/ministry.
Love always, Betty
Dear Sr. Melannie, Thank you for today’s blog notes and video. You certainly haave seen the Most Beautiful Maple tree on Earth. Wonder about what Christ would say. I did not know I had such a large ‘family’–it was just us “two” forever, I thought. My husband passed away recent and I first read about Sr. Anne when I discovered I Can eat differently. Thanks for the wonderful email about her. I really admire her. Got a long journey ahead…look forward to Sunflower Seeds. Lori
Thank you Sister Melanie and God bless you for the weekly inspiration.
Beautiful, as always!!!!
Thank you, Sister Melanie, this was beautiful. Sharing our faith and attending Mass and walking up to receive Jesus in the Eucharist with others brightens the light in my soul and reminds me that Jesus is always there. God bless you on your retreats; the recipients are very fortunate to learn from your creative spirituality. I’ll never hear that Motel 6 commercial or look at another porch light the same way again.
Christ Be Our Light is one of my favorite songs. Thanks for sharing that one.
My Motel 6 story – Several years ago my son, who was 8 or 9, and I were traveling to Phoenix, AZ, from Kansas. We were to spend a night in Albuquerque, NM. We had a reservation at a Motel 6. As we were driving in to Albuquerque we could see that a storm was gathering. It started raining as we were unloading the car and by the time we got everything in to the room the storm really broke loose with thunder and lightening as well as the rain. The next thing we know – all the lights go out! I think we even had to shower by flashlight. About the time we went to bed the lights had come back on, but we always joked about the lights going out at a Motel 6 who had promised to leave the lights on for us.
I liked someone else’s comment about the sanctuary lamp being God leaving the light on for us to remind us of his presence with us.
Blessings on your weekend retreat.
When I was a kid, my grandmother lived two doors down from us. When I would leave her second floor apartment at night and walk down the alley to my house, she insisted that I turn on our porch light or flash it so she knew I got home safely. As an aside, she was also a big fan of the “bug light,” a light bulb that was meant to deter flying insects. I am grateful that porch lights remind me of her love and care for me.
Dear Sr. Melannie,
I loved your blog today and the commercial that followed. My Dad always left the porch light on for us and we always left it on for our children.
When we moved to Florida 25 years ago, one of the things I missed the most was the change of seasons and I began to search for trees that reminded me of home. For several years now, my husband and I have made an annual trip back to Indiana to experience autumn in all it’s glory. I think changing leaves are the porchlight God leaves on for me to remind me that I’m home and all is right with the world.
Your post brought to mind Chris Rice’s song, “Home Tonight” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=awFoMSe8gi4
The light of Christ was present at my beginning when I entered this world and will be there to guide me to my heavenly home when God sends for me.