Little Light

“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine…”

It’s funny how that tune still runs so easily through my mind decades after learning it.  It’s also funny how, as a girl, I envisioned a little yellow candle, and a basket, and the devil trying to “blow it out” every time I sang it.  I knew the actions and liked to sing, so it was a comfortable part of my repertoire.

But, now, it’s like an anthem to come and die.

If the Light in me shines brightly, I am welcoming the forces of darkness to come and throttle me (and not, likely, with a wicker basket).  In proclaiming my allegiance to the Father of Lights, I am fastening my name to part of His stellar constellation, and I am no longer hidden, I’m out there, exposed and raw, flickering with the fire of the Spirit.

All of a sudden, my life is being lived ‘out loud’; all of a sudden, I present a problem to the enemy.

My heart is aligned with the one, true God, but there is still a struggle with my flesh that not only likes the safety of conformity, but has been conditioned to desire ‘falling in line’ with the crowd since walking through that Kindergarten door.  And, something about shining in the darkness is just so bold and uncomfortable to my flesh; it attracts attention and telescopes.  It means not hiding from the world, from its opinions and prejudices, it means welcoming conflict and misunderstanding, and sometimes it means sticking out like a sore thumb (which is my increasing reality).

But this desire to move out of the shadows is good, because it means that Jesus is stronger in me; I’d rather risk life with Son than linger under baskets.

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Regrets of the Dying

In the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, apparently the number one regret at the end of people’s life is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

I’m pretty sure I never saw a movie where I was rooting for the protagonist to submit to the doomish, narrow opinions of others who wanted to shut down the dream.  (That would make for a pretty lame movie.)

Struggling to work out the vision God has given us amidst the real-world cast of characters that surrounds us has made it clear to me that fear has been a dominant feature in my life; let’s just say I’m not exactly ready to star as a hero any time soon.

I was never scared of spiders or of getting sick or normal day to day stuff; I’m not a wimp, generally speaking.  But, the quiet background noise of fear has penetrated my thoughts over the years, especially as I have stepped out in greater and greater faith, often prompting me to overly care about what other people think about me and causing me to feel strong guilt when I fail to live up to other’s expectations for my life.

But another book I read recently (Fear No Evil) articulated what has been forming in my mind for some time now: “Behind every fear there is a lie.”

Behind every fear there is a lie.

Fear = lie.

Fear is not of God, because perfect love casts out fear.

And so, whether I’m afraid of disappointing others, or getting ‘too weird’, or being totally misunderstood, or fearfully wondering if I will even make it through the mess of this day (if I don’t, I suppose it will prove the critics right, I am in over my head), I’m learning that all that anxious thinking is at best unproductive and at worst massively destructive.

Why do I mess with fear?  Why is it so hard to punch it in the face and just get over it?

It recently occurred to me that of my closest circle of friends in elementary school, I am the only one with children.  The others are doing marvelous, meaningful and glamorous things with their lives.  Yet, it struck me afresh that what will last is the life we build.  Our ideas and art and efforts will endure a season or two or five, but children carry the spirit of life into the next generation, to a place I will never go.

This crazy work of cleaning up goobery faces, waiting out tantrums, matching 8 million socks again, and clearing mold specimens out of the containers at the back of the fridge, is all for a greater purpose: life beyond me, life beyond here.

And that’s the dream we have, essentially: Life, abundantly; life free in Jesus.

Honestly, I don’t know where our story is going, but how can I be afraid of a dream like that, a dream that is woven through scripture like a perfect golden thread?  There’s no fear in that, only victory.

A Great Work

Over the last few seasons we have had folk we love share their concerns over our choices.  Our choices are wacky and uncomfortable and seemingly unwise; though no one calls any of our choices sin, they feel a sense of gravity about the ‘direness’ of our situation.

Imagine, choosing life is now considered reckless.

Our life is too different, too full of children, too sheltered, too unconventional, too free from culture-junk.

We have had meetings and chats and conversations to address our nutty, ‘problematic’ thinking.

How can I justify to men what our upside-down God has called us to do?  We certainly aren’t walking this out perfectly, but I’m pretty sure Noah looked like an idiot too, and he was actually amazing.

I suppose I am in good company.

Nehemiah, too, refreshes me.  I love this story where he goes about the immense task of rebuilding the ancient wall around Jerusalem.  He is busy working away, filling in the gaps, all the while crammed with vision, and commissioned by God to work at this huge and thankless task.  He is all mission, all focus.

And then these guys say to him, “Come, let us meet together…”

{They don’t want him to work on the wall!}

So, I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.  Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”

But they sent me this message four times [even a letter with false accusations]…  Then I sent to [them], saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.”

For they were trying to make us afraid, saying “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.”

Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands…

Oh, yes, I am doing a great work and I don’t have time to converse and convince others about what God has asked me to do.

These hearts that we are growing in this atmosphere of faith and hope are full of the light of their Heavenly Father; this is radical holy work.

The grueling days of hard, hot, heavy work stretch out before me like a seemingly endless wall, where I fit one humble pebble at a time into the gaps, trusting that this business is the work that God prepared in advance for me to do.

Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands!