In Matthew 5:14-16 this is written:
""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."
It comes right after the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus turns just about everything that the apostles were thinking upside down. "Blessed are the poor in spirit...the meek...those who mourn...those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...the merciful...the pure in heart...the peacemakers...those who are persecuted for righteousness..." they are the ones who will be "...owners of the kingdom of heaven...comforted...inherit the earth...filled...shown mercy...they will see God...they will be called sons of God...and theirs is the kingdom of heaven." So many of those attributes are the exact opposite of what is heralded as worthy today wher the strong, the rich, the self-seeking are the ones who seem to have comfort and wealth and all that is desired.
So after charging his disciples (and us) to be so counter-cultural...what does it mean that Jesus he next asks us to be a light, a city on a hill?
When I picture a city on a hill, it is at dusk. I picture being dry and dusty after a long journey and looking up at a city glittering as it's lights begin to come on. A city on a hill is something that one must look up to see. Everything that happens there is visible. Whether it wants to be or not, people look to it and good or bad see what is happening. "A city on a hill cannot be hidden." We were not created to be hidden, we were created to be seen. That in itself is a convicting thing, especially when it is said right after the sermon on the mount.
Georgia and her "Happy to you" candle!
Why write about being a city and being a light at the same time? Well, what keeps ringing true for me is this, the times when we need a light are when it is darkest. When the storms are raging and it feels dark and scary is when I reach out and need those people whose faith is so deeply true. The thing is...so much of the time my faith seems so weak and the temptation is to hide it, to make it 'look' strong and perfect on the outside, to do the right things, to hide the real which falters and dims at times. But when do people need that light the most? In the midst of the darkest storms. If we only show what is false, if we hide our small faltering lights, what is true will not be there to shine when it is needed by someone else.
Parker and his birthday candle
"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." The Lord asks our lights to be ther all the time, on a stand for others to see. For them to be there when we feel strong and certain and to still be there when we feel so very frail and small.
I started to really learn this lesson a few months ago when a very brave friend of mine shared her journey of losing and delivering her twin baby girls with the world. It was beyond heartbreaking and bring tears even now, but you know what...the beauty of her frail faith during that time shone so much brighter than anyone that I have met who had it all together on a Sunday morning. Praying for her and journeying alongside her somehow almost brushed the very edges of heaven itself. God's compassion was undeniably evident. I learned more about the grace of God by watching my friend's wavering light in that storm than from any sermon in a pulpit. She did not hide it, she did not fake it, through her tear streaked faith my life was forever changed. It was impossible to hide power of God's strength and tenderness in her vulnerability. Because it is when we are weak that God promises to be strong. When we are real, we are transformed by the way He meets us...and there is something in the journey that shines unbelievably bright.
We are a mess at times, and we hurt and we question when the storms rage. We desire to look like we have it all together. But when we take back control, when we compromise and wall ourselves in with what is comfortable, we miss what is real. There is a part of the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams that I love. It goes like this:
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but Really loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
As we get real with the Lord, as we REALLY begin to understand how much He loves us, we begin to be able to be more real with ourselves and with the world. Our lights may flicker, our hair may be all matted from standing there holding that light out in the storm...and I believe as we look around, we begin to spot other crazy haired folks with lopsided lights who are also standing alongside them... and we can stand, we can stand and begin to find JOY in standing as we learn that it is not our light but the light of Christ that we hold out to the world...and that light will never fail.
"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."
2 Corinthians 12:9