Monday, August 12, 2013

Light Shines

A friend and I discussed how we had spent a recent holiday.  My own triumphs paled in comparison to his efforts. He had tackled the non-functioning landscape lights along the walkways of his newly purchased home. This was undoubtedly an issue he could resolve by taking apart the individual lights, checking the wiring and making sure all was suitably in order.

Satisfied with the thoroughness of his efforts, he confidently flipped the switch. Nothing happened! Rechecking his rewiring work did not reveal any errors. Determination and diligence failed to produce even a flicker of light. Eventually, and I’m not sure how, he discovered the lights were not tied into the electrical current. Without that connection, these correctly aligned lights could never be a source of illumination.

This humorous recounting reminded me of my early years, ones that showed similarly frantic but futile efforts. Don’t get me wrong. I am not talking about electrical wiring. Even I am smart enough to know my technical limitations. I am talking about ambition and goals. I think that hardwired into every child is the desire to glow with a light that others notice, one that will, in time, make a difference in the world. At least that was how I was wired.

Childhood was the time of assembling the correct parts—loving parents, solid biblical teaching and excellent education. Even in retrospect, I can’t find any pieces that were left out of the process. At some point I was boxed up and shipped into the world with the hope I would light a pathway for others. As a follower of Christ, I wanted that pathway to lead them directly to him.

I was soon installed in the garden of family, church work, and secondary and college teaching. What an opportunity to shine! What a pitiful light! Certainly I was meant for more.

In an effort to improve output, I poured over countless manuals—the how-to books of being a more loving wife, a better mother, a more effective teacher, a more faithful friend, a more honoring daughter, a more committed follower of Christ. I would immerse myself in their paper bound knowledge and emerge with renewed resolve to do it right. From the information acquired there, I would set about refitting and retooling the structures of my soul. It was exhausting work, but I was diligent and determined. Given enough time, I was sure I would get it right. But I never did!

Repeated efforts produced the same inadequate results. During one of several absolutely worst, but ultimately best, seasons of my life, I came to the end of my resources. With counter-intuitive wisdom, I unclenched my fists to let go of my own efforts.

Now my heavenly Father could take hold of my hands and he gently showed me the problem. I was disconnected from the source of power, the Holy Spirit of God. I was wearing myself out trying to be the light instead of letting Christ’s light shine through me.

Unlike the lights along the walkway at my friend's house, it wasn’t that I had never been connected to the source of power. That unbreakable connection had been made the moment I committed to follow Jesus. My problem was I had never learned to depend on that power.

At first it was hard to grasp the magnitude of the discovery. I read and reread Ephesians 1 and 2, underlining then circling any phrase that reminded me I was in Christ. I had been firmly wired into the breaker box of God’s eternal power. Nothing could separate me from his love or the resources he provided. The power of the Triune God was available to pulsate through my human wiring and spotlight his love and majesty.

The knowledge that the essential wiring was in place gave me hope. Tapping into that power brought me joy. While I was in the process of living ‘do it myself’ Christianity, the concept of living by the Spirit had seemed mysterious and inaccessible. Now I could see it was logical and attainable. I felt as if God himself took me to a spiritual breaker box. With his light shining into the dark cavity, I clearly saw the on/off switch. I flipped the controls and chose him.

Joy filled me, power surged, light shone.

I will not be insulted if you stop reading now. In fact, I really wanted to end here for several good reasons. First, because I can’t imagine why anyone would want to read anything longer than this is. Secondly, because I am lazy, and while it was fun to dash off the above writing in under a half hour, it will take me much longer to write applicable conclusions. Thirdly, because I really wish this were the end of the story, and I could declare I lived happily and glowed brightly ever after.

The truth is that living with an active, power-flowing, light-producing connection to the Holy Spirit requires continual choice. I have to begin each morning by committing my minutes, my body, my decisions, even my interruptions, to God to be used as he sees fit. Before I put bare toes to the cold floor, I acknowledge my own abilities will never be enough to walk out what he wants to do through me. I make the hard choice to set aside my rights to a personal agenda, and I give him permission to have my life his way.

This conversation is one God and I must have often throughout the day. Sadly I have discovered I have an inborn, unthinking, tendency to flip the switch that transfers power back to me. Almost anything can trigger the impulse—a difficult person, an unresolved problem, a road under construction or people I love to be with, a problem I can solve, a journey with smooth sailing.

It may take a few minutes or a few hours before I recognize the absence of his light. I may notice it in the effort it takes to be kind or to be effective. I may see it reflected in my eagerness to take credit for a job well done or to use people to make me happy. I may feel it in an emotional overreaction to something that doesn’t go my way or the pride I have when something does. I may be reminded by the still small voice that whispers “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.”

Reconnection is as easy as an in-the-moment decision to reconnect to his power. It’s a lot like pushing the reset button on a ground fault interrupter—that electrical outlet in your kitchen or bathroom that shuts off the flow of electricity when you splash water or overload the circuit.

Joy fills, power surges, light shines.