Friday, February 10, 2012

Let Your Light Shine

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It seems lately that God is leading me through muddy waters of humility and murky clouds of submission, but while I used to find such stops in life repugnant and frightening, I now feel a calm peace because I see through my lenses of eternity rather than my physical eyes that see only into the world.  Having said that, however, I, like anyone else, still have to wade through the mud and squint through the fog before I can reach my place of inner peace and trust.  This past week, for example, I was near melting down as I surveyed prospective living accommodations in Long Beach.  As soon as I pulled up to my stop and looked around I was ready to back out and head home, but I decided instead to stop a woman walking with her dog and ask for information. After inquiring about the neighborhood's general safety and activity, she let me know that I would need to keep my things locked up, because "we do have some break-ins," and that I didn't have to worry too much about the local drug dealers because "they pretty much keep to themselves."  Though she also reassured me that she had no qualms about taking her pooch out for a 1 a.m. potty, I simply couldn't move my thoughts past the peaceful drug dealers and not so uncommon break-ins - so I began to pray.  I told God I would live wherever He told me to live, but that He would need to give me an extra measure of trust in His protection because in that moment I was questioning His methods.  It was shortly after this and much more prayer when I realized that the light He has called me to be in the world will not shine brightly in an already lit room; it will shine the brightest in the room where the lights are off.

I don't necessarily believe that God wants my family to pack up and move to that particular location, but perhaps in leading me there, He only wished to make a point.  Have you ever been in a room full of your brothers and sisters in Christ?  It's usually a room filled with lights of laughter, high beam smiles, and sparkling eyes.  I love my brothers and sisters in Christ and unless we're mourning a sad occasion or helping one another through a difficult time, the place where we gather is usually well lit.  As I sat in my car in Long Beach, I didn't sit in a well lit room, but instead sank down into a chair surrounded by the darkness of sin, torment of confusion, and emptiness of the lost.  "God, why am I here?" I silently wondered as I searched my surroundings for something, anything, familiar.  Appropriately so, it was a cold, dark, and rainy day so the presence of clouds was only too fitting, but when God spoke over these last few days, everything has suddenly become pristinely clear.  

I am never more comfortable in my own skin than when I'm in the presence of God and with other people who love Him as much as I do, but what if I never left those people?  My light would shine only as bright as the brightest light in the room, but how much brighter will it shine if I take that light into a dark area of the world, or even my own city, where God isn't known? Scripture tells us in Matthew 5:14-16 that, as believers in Christ, we are the "light of the world," and that we are to "let our light shine before men," but what news is this to someone who already lives in the presence of God, someone whose light in Him already shines? It's great if a bunch of my church friends and I get together to praise and worship God and let our lights shine among each other, but Jesus was not limiting the "world" in this verse to the body of brothers and sisters we already know in Him; He intended for us to shine our light in the darkest places of the world, and in all corners, so that all who don't already know Him will come to know Him. We're not meant to stay comfortable where we are, we're meant to grow from where He leads us.

I've known for some time now that my call in life was in ministry, but oh how slowly and gently God has been leading me down that road - until recently.  As tears sprang to my eyes that day in Long Beach when I wondered what on earth God would be doing taking me into the high crime areas of any city, I didn't "get" what He was trying to tell me because I was too caught up in me and how uncomfortable it would be to live where I stood, but the minute I put my focus back on God, I started to see.  As servants of Jesus, we're not meant to stay within the comfy church walls with our well lit brothers and sisters in Christ; we're called to literally go into the world, and as the Great Commission directs, "make disciples of all nations," (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15) but how difficult, nearly impossible, this would be if we never left our comfort zone of Christian friends.  A light doesn't become a light until it collides with the dark, and if we only let our light shine with other lights, we'll never reach a soul.  As the sun removes the darkness of night, so our light should lead people to Jesus.  It is not a curse or a punishment or a judgment when God calls us to go into the darkness of the unknown; it is perhaps one of His greatest blessings because it's our opportunity to let the light of Christ inside of us shine the brightest.  Wherever God has led you, trust Him to see you through.  It could be that He not only wants to draw people to Himself through you, but also that He wants to show you just how brightly your light can shine. 

 My final message from God on this topic? "Welcome to ministry, Heather." Oh, how I love Him!

"You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before me, that they see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven." --Matthew 5:14-16

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