Friday, December 25, 2015

Behind the Lights

I've always loved Christmas lights. 
Christmas lights in Greensboro, NC

Even as a young Jewish girl who had no desire to celebrate Christmas, I still loved the lights. White lights and multicolored lights. Blinking bulbs and steady strands. Simple lines and extravagant displays.

When I came to faith in Jesus as my Messiah, I was thrilled to be able to enjoy the lights while celebrating the Light. In fact, I was baptized in December, with the whole town lit up!

Now in my forties, I still love Christmas lights. And I recently discovered a new kind. They are huge outdoor ornaments - the size of basketballs - that light up in a vast array of colors and patterns. Maybe they've been around for awhile, but I'd never seen them before. Until one evening, driving home from one of my son's basketball games. Seemingly suspended in mid-air, these beautiful lights literally took my breath away.

I was entranced. I thought about those beautiful ornaments all week. I began comparing all other displays to these sparkly new lights. None came even remotely close.

The next week, I drove by that house again, this time during the daytime. And once again, I caught my breath. But not in a good way. In the mid-day sun, instead of a brilliant display of sparkling orbs, all I saw was a tangled mess of ropes and extension cords. The mystique was shattered. The magic gone. Behind all the beauty was an ugly mess.

As I mulled over my disillusionment, it struck me that our lives are just like those ornaments. We may try to make people think otherwise, but our lives are often a jumbled mess. They are filled with the pain of broken relationships and broken bodies.

Ornament ball lights by day...
Yet somehow, someway, God is able to bind up our fractures in ways that bring blessing. Blessing for us as we walk through our brokenness with Him by our side, and blessing for others as they watch us put one persevering foot in front of the other.
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4:6-9 NIV
The truth is, without the jumbled mess of ropes and extension cords, there would have been no Christmas lights to entrance me in the first place. It's not beauty in spite of the mess, it is beauty because of the mess.  

The painful twists and knots of life are what ultimately make our lights shine so beautifully and so uniquely.  And so, as you move toward a place of restoration and beauty, you will not - and should not - forget the heartbreaks that have woven you into the person you are.  

The key is to not get tangled up along the way. To know that there is more than what we can see. To trust that God will ultimately weave the pain and frustration and brokenness together with His marvelous light to produce the most unique and brilliant displays.

And one more thing. If you - like me - often look at someone else's beautiful, shiny, perfect life and assume that they must have no idea what deep pain and disappointment feels like, consider this: behind their bright smile is probably a web of scars that have woven them into the person you see today.
"Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish" said Isaiah the prophet. "In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction..." Isaiah 38:17 NIV
Maybe this year was a year of messy, ugly cords for you. Maybe you're still knotted up. Or perhaps God has fully redeemed your time of crisis, and now you are able to shine unhindered. Wherever you are in the midst of life's tangles and knots, know that ultimately - whether you have a chance to see it on this side of heaven or not - God is weaving it all together to make a breathtakingly beautiful display.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NRS

I pray that as you and I walk through the disappointments and afflictions of this life, we will fix our eyes on the Light at the end. And that we will never forget that the wounds of our past are what make each of us uniquely beautiful.