In John’s gospel, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, “YOU are the light of the world. To teach kids this, I give them mirrors. Then I shine a flashlight toward each who raises their mirror to reflect the light.
You are a child of God. God loves you. We love God back by reflecting God’s goodness. As our lives mirror God’s love, our lives sync up with God’s purpose. We become who God created us to be. Mirroring God who is love, we become loving. Our lives fill with light. We reflect that light. And in so doing, we become the light of the world. God’s light shines through our love and things change. The world becomes less wrong and more right.
The actor Kirk Douglas usually played tough guys, but his hardest role was playing the tormented artist Vincent Van Gogh. “It was painful,” Douglas said. “To understand his vision, I tried to bring his passion, art, confusion, and fury into me, which was painful. I didn’t watch that movie for years. I didn’t want that pain.”
As moral actors, we who belong to God are to bring God’s vision for the world to life. When we are loving, forgiving, humble, reverent, and peaceable; when we bring those godly virtues into our hearts, relationships, and lives, it doesn’t bring pain. It leads to joy. It banishes the darkness, bringing us into the light where our best lives can be found.
By grace, it’s possible. The world’s darkness seems invincible, but God’s light is infinitely stronger. One of the worst events to befall my family was when an arsonist set fire to our barn. We were away on vacation, and when we got home our neighbors had transformed everything. They rounded up scattered livestock, rebuilt fencing, and plowed under the charred remains. Yes, we were sad because of the bad that had happened, but we were amazed — blessed — by the goodness and kindness that had been shared.
That happened 50 years ago. Whenever I think of that dark memory, I always remember the light, the kindness, and the good that was shown (shone) to us by God through our community.
We’re all broken people. I often feel that my mirror is hopelessly cracked — with many pieces missing. In his book The Second Mountain, David Brooks says that the difficulties of our lives, the seasons of disappointment, and suffering (which comes to us all) can either break us or break us open. Broken people can become bitter and mean. But people who suffer and who are broken open by that travail find something deeper. By going through hell, somehow they end up closer to heaven. They’re more deeply connected to God and others. Their crucifixion results in resurrection. It takes time and lots of tears, but they do emerge with greater life and deepened purpose.
Sometimes the worst wounding can bring about the greatest healing. By being broken open, our ego gets dislodged and we suddenly find that we are living a larger, more compassionate life. God’s brilliance begins to shine more brightly through our brokenness. Our broken mirror becomes a disco ball, shining God’s light in an unexpected multitude of ways.
That shouldn’t surprise us because God’s light shines through the oddest of ways. A crucified carpenter on Calvary’s awful tree shows us that, even when broken, Love’s light shall shine. And, as Easter teaches us, not even the darkness of death can stop the rising of God’s light and love.
This Light; this Love; this Salvation lives in you. How will you share it; shine it; live it? You don’t have to be a Billy Graham or a Pope Francis or a Martin Luther King or a Mother Teresa. The only person you have to be is you: Fully open to Christ, willing to receive God’s grace and reflect God’s light.
Got problems? Good. Been through hell? Even better. Not because suffering is noble or good. It’s neither. But a broken heart often heals into a larger, more-loving heart.
Dave Thomas, who founded Wendy’s, was adopted. He knew the pain of being alone — and the joy of being welcomed into a loving family. Yes, Dave Thomas sold hamburgers and Frosties, but more importantly, he founded the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, which works finding loving families for the 450,000 children now in foster care.
Dave Thomas did that. What are you going to do? What can you do to make the world more loving? You have all you need to act right now. You have the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide you. Open yourself and let Christ move through you. The world will be blessed and God will be glorified as you shine.