I'm standing in my bedroom, hand gripped hard to one post of the four poster bed, chest shaking from sobs of dry tears. "God, please help me know how to do this. I can't do this. I need you," words barely whispered from brokenness. I've yelled again--let out a litany of blaming words instead of a calm, patient explanation as to why a son needs to listen and respect. I love him so much it makes my heart ache, and that is why careless words and certain actions send me reeling as my mind plays the song of doubt and fear at my own failures as a parent.
I'm fighting shadows today.
In these moments, every day, I become weary. And the failures and failings seem to pile up in my mind faster than the laundry down the hall. I know God makes beautiful things--from failure, from pain, from ashes, from us. And if I know you just a little I can usually point out how His light is making you shine. But most days, I just see myself in shadowed silhouette.
I have to fight those shadows.
You see, once upon a time, I was filled with darkness and sin and despair. I was a desperate, wretched sinner who loved rules, nice boxes I could check, easy answers to hard questions, and lists I could follow to do the "right" thing. My life was centered on my own performance of faith. And if you knew me back then, you probably would have said I was a "good girl." Somewhere in the middle of all that, I experienced God's astounding Grace, His deep Love, and His unending Mercy in the most real way possible. I saw how much I needed forgiveness, how my outside might look okay to some people, but I was in need of rescuing from a dark pride inside. God wrecked me in the best possible way, stripped away my self-sufficiency, and gave me a deep sense of my need for Him in every moment of every day. He filled me with the light of who He is.
"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
He opened my life and my eyes to the light of life, the light of Christ, His light. He loved me even as I wandered in the darkness and brought me out to dance in the light. And I didn't have to perform for the One who loved me just for me. He knew I was far from perfect or even remotely good, but He loved me and showed me that He could make something more beautiful out of my life than any accomplishment or achievement.
I confess, on stormy and difficult days those shadows of perfectionist pride can easily come calling to the edges of my heart and mind in the form of poison words of worthlessness and failure. I start to think of myself in terms of what I have done or accomplished instead of who I am in Christ. Rather than confessing and receiving His forgiveness and renewing of my heart and mind, I began to go over the myriad of ways I have failed and focus upon myself.
Maybe you have those shadows of self-doubt that come from pains of your past or disappointment in your present or even fear of your future. Possibly, on days that aren't going so great, words of worthlessness or scorn seem to cling to you? Those labels of shame and shadow don't make you who you are. You are loved and amazing, and in Christ, you are filled with light. So I hope and pray that you fight your shadows and stand in His light. If nothing else, I hope it helps to hear that you aren't the only one fighting them and to know that we are never going to get it together, get it right, or make it all fit. But we have the light of a God who loves us and gives us grace for each moment.
Life is messy. Life in Christ is a beautiful mess, shadows illuminated by the light of love without condition. His light inside of us is a lamp in the window, a welcoming beacon to the sin- and world-weary traveler who cannot push back those shadows alone.
I can fight the shadows of these hard days because I know the One who pierced the darkness of eternity with His brilliance.
His light will never dim or be extinguished.
His light makes me shine in love and grace and draws people to 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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
(My own petty trophies and accomplishments, my small and prideful attempts at polished life just invited me to live in the dark and pushed people away.)
How do we fight the good fight and navigate these shadowlands (oh, how I love C.S. Lewis) with hope? Here are some thoughts. (I would love to hear yours)
1. Begin on our knees. Any battle of the heart and mind that we fight must begin with our seeking God's face, His presence, His blessing, and His potter's hand to mold us and transform us.
2. Search scripture to discover what God's word says about how He sees and loves and defines His children, how He sees you in Christ. Finish this sentence with as many words as you can find on this treasure hunt: "In Christ, I am_________" (there are some beautiful printables available at various sites and blogs expressing some of these truths). Keep your list in a journal, make your own printable for your fridge, or frame a graphic list, and put it in a prominent place where you can see it daily. Add to your list as you come across more scriptures, teach your children about their identity in Christ, and look at it as often as possible to remind you who He says you are.
3. Find beauty, notice grace (even in the ordinary and messy moments of life), list the gifts that God has given you each day. There's this amazing author you must have heard about and her book, One Thousand Gifts, that you must read. She has called and inspired so many to see His gifts, list His gifts, live in gratitude for His gifts, and know that all is from His hand. In her words "all is grace." You can use her inspirations explained here to make your list of gifts, or just begin writing in a notebook or journal, gifts of each day for which you are thankful. You will be surprised how quickly you can fill pages with thanks. Something about true gratitude from our heart makes us realize how light dances in every shadow because He is always with us.
4. Find a way that you can bring light, make beauty in this shadowed world. It may be cooking for a lonely neighbor, taking flowers and visiting someone sick or in the nursing home, volunteering to feed people at a shelter, loving on and supporting families in need who are in your church, helping out or even beginning a youth sports team on the "rough" side of your town, supporting an adoptive or foster family, sending cards of encouragement or gift cards to a single mom or dad who is struggling, going on a short term mission trip to serve outside of your context/comfort zone, sponsoring a child through World Vision, Holt, or Compassion. These are just a few of the ways we can get our eyes off of our limitations and learn so much about how God loves by loving and being in relationship with people.
I'm still learning how to fight those shadows and live in the truth that His light lives in me, and I am praying for you today as you fight your own. I really would love to hear the ways that you banish the darkness from your heart and mind, if you would be so kind as to leave a comment or send an email.
Loving and Learning to Be the Light,
- I love Jesus Christ, am a seeker of beauty, and am a grateful child of God who would be lost and hopeless were it not for His grace. I am learning to walk in love, see interruptions as divine appointments, and value people and relationships above agendas and results. I pray my life is grace-filled, and brings joy and encouragement to everyone I know and meet. We are a family of 6, built by God through love, birth, and adoption, living in the beauty and the struggle that accompanies parenting kids from hard places. Got questions? Email me at email@example.com.
|This digital scrapbook made with Smilebox|