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You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.
2 Samuel 22:29 New International Version (NIV)
At the beginning of each year, God gives me a theme word. This is a word that I apply to everything I’m going to do in the next twelve months. This year’s word was ‘unencumbered.’ Ironically, one of the first things I encountered this year was an illness that sidelined me for the better part of six weeks. In fact, I’m still not 100% healed from the illness, but at least I believe the worst of it is behind me. The first six weeks of 2017, I felt anything but unencumbered and at times, I wasn’t sure He had anything left for me to do at all. I was slowly, but surely, being depleted of all hope. One of the major goals that I had set was becoming more and more elusive as the medications I was on caused me to gain weight when I was in fact, trying to lose. Needless to say, by the time I was feeling better, I wasn’t sure which way was up anymore. I was feeling extremely encumbered and very much in the dark.
They say the harder we pray and the more we attempt to shine the light that God has placed in us, the harder the devil works to extinguish it. This has been proven in my life time and time again. Every time I have gained any momentum toward the vision that God has placed in my heart, there has been a major setback. The most obvious of these occurred even before I was fully walking with God again. For several years in my marriage, my now ex-husband and I were trying to have more children. I had miscarried one time before our daughter was born, so when I got pregnant again about a year after she was born we were hoping everything would be okay. Unfortunately, I miscarried early on. But we tried again….and again…and again. Each time, I would get further into the pregnancy and each time, I would lose the baby. By the fifth miscarriage, I was so broken that my depression and anxiety threatened to overtake me. I also hadn’t realized that after my daughter was born, I suffered with post-partum depression. I thought it was just me being me. I had always had issues with depression and I figured it was just more of the same misery I had been carrying for most of my life. Even though it felt different, I just chalked it up to my tendency to be depressed. But this is where I found God again. There, in the darkness and pain of all that loss.
The thing about hitting bottom is that when we finally reach the point of all despair we really only have one choice. That choice is to pick ourselves up and find a way out of the darkness. Some find a glimmer of light here and there and they allow that to sustain them, but that glimmer only serves you for so long. You find yourself right back at the bottom wondering why you can’t fix it. But there is something very different about the light that God provides. When we seek Him, we find something that won’t let darkness overtake us again. When we are truly trying to develop our relationship with Him, He carries the light. The more we let Him in, the more the light lives within us. If we only seek Him superficially, we only get the most superficial part of the light. It is much like the difference between a light fixture in your home and a small flashlight. When the light is installed in you home, it brings light to a much larger area than that of a small flashlight.
Imagine if all you had to work with in your house was a handheld flashlight that you carried from room to room. Some of us go through life just like that. We carry the smallest possible source of light with us in hopes that it will somehow illuminate every area of our lives. Most of the time, it leaves us vulnerable to attacks from things we simply cannot see in the darkness. The solution: We need a bigger light. We need a brighter light. We need a more constant light. Only then will we be able to see what we need to see to operate in the fullness of God.
It may seem like a silly analogy, but it really makes sense. Where there is darkness, we stumble. Simply put, when we can’t see well or at all, we are at risk of getting hurt. There are those who swear that light doesn’t make a difference. They don’t care if they get hurt and they don’t seem to care if they hurt others while operating in that “blindness.” Darkness, for them, hides all of their flaws. It keeps people from seeing anything that they don’t want others to see in them. But what they are forgetting is that it also keeps others from seeing what’s good about them. And it keeps them from seeing what is good about everyone and everything else. How much light are you letting in? Can you see everything you need to see? Or are you still stumbling over things that are hidden from your sight? I challenge you to turn on the light. You won’t need any extra bulbs and it’s not going to drive your electric bill up. All you need to do is pray to God to light the way. He is your source and His light is everlasting and full of power. And in it, you will be able to live unencumbered.
The sun will no more be your light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
Isaiah 60:19 New International Version (NIV)
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV
In these days when everyone is scrambling for their fifteen minutes of fame, I sit and think about whether or not I want to be a part of any of it. I’m an author…a writer…a hack who likes to share my feelings, perceptions, opinions, daydreams, etc. But in truth, I’m really nothing special without God’s power. And I don’t even think there is anyone that I would want to be if God isn’t a part of the equation. So, it boggles the mind how so many people can be trying so hard to be noticed for who they are when who they are really doesn’t matter if God isn’t a the center of it all.
We all have a story and it is very important that we share those stories with one another. But not so that we can be recognized for the story we tell. The point of sharing what we’ve been through and how we got through it is to bring glory to God. He is, after all, the only reason we make it through any of what we endure. Superstar, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson used to do a bit whenever he would come out into the WWE ring. He would start talking to whoever he was facing off with and then ask them their name and before they had a chance to answer, he would abruptly say, “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!!!!” This could be the best possible response to any and every person out there who is trying doggedly to get people to notice them and to notice what they are doing. It really doesn’t matter what your name is. It doesn’t matter who you’re wearing, what brand you’re using, who you’re following or who’s following you. I don’t care what you are writing, making, selling, supporting, etc. if the sole purpose of all you do appears to be to bolster your own ego or somehow validate yourself by gaining the acceptance of a culture that has no clue why God is important.
The harsh reality is that no matter how hard we work to be accepted here, in this world, it will never be enough. If our focus is on how many people we can get to “buy” whatever it is that we are putting out there, be it a product or a persona, then we have missed the point. While it is all well and good to promote our work, the point of all we do should be about so much more than how much of ourselves we can get people to buy into. It’s not about us. It’s about using this life, this body, these skills and talents to reach out and help others overcome challenges and obstacles. It’s about seeing someone in need and knowing that if we just take a minute to talk to them or we spend some time showing them a better way to live that we will have used what God has given us in the way that He intended for us to use it. It’s not about a hashtag or getting more likes. It’s not about seeing who can get the most followers or bring in the most money. If we’re not truly reaching out to others, then all we are doing is the busywork of living in Satan’s world. If you’re not Kingdom-building, you might as well be watching paint dry.
Kingdom-building is about talking to that young cashier who’s having a hard day or saying hello to the old man sitting on the park bench as you walk past him to get to work. It’s about stopping to have a conversation with the people around you instead of trying to see how many people we can move through each day without making any real connections. It’s easy to just encapsulate ourselves and act like we don’t notice the people around us. We can all soapbox until the cows come home about abortion, women’s rights, immigration, the economy, and whatever else tends to be the hot topic of the day, but how many of us would be willing to take time out of our busy schedules to seek our opportunities to talk with young girls who are at risk for unwanted pregnancy? Who among is willing to talk directly to women about how they can break free from a cycle of generational oppression? Who is willing to take immigrants into their home to prove the point that love builds no walls? Who would sponsor a single mother for a month or even a year so that she doesn’t have to grovel and jump through the many ridiculous hoops set up by a dysfunctional welfare system? Who of us would set aside our own need to be heard or noticed just to take the time to make a real difference in someone’s life? Would you?
If every person out there took up any one of these causes in this way, the world would be a very different place. It would no longer be about the masses fighting perceived injustices. It would be about each individual person, using the resources that God gave them to show the love of God to one another. Is it likely that we will ever see this in our lifetime? I certainly wish it were. The sad truth is that it is so much easier just to sit back and complain about everyone else’s shortcomings that we’ve almost convinced ourselves that it wouldn’t be worth the effort to take actual initiative to make changes. God never meant for this life to be one big audition for a reality show. He means for us to live it and walk out the principles of His word. He wants us to show Him that we understand what He means when He says to love thy neighbor. He wants you to be an example of His love and grace to the people around you. The more we show Him that we understand how to do this, the more we will begin to see widespread change in this world. This world is not our Creator and we did not create ourselves. All we create is an identity and that identity, if it is to mean anything at all, needs to be rooted and grounded in Christ. Anything else is simply not who we are.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 3:1 NIV