Stained-Glass Window

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If someone were to ask me what the primary purpose of a window was, I would probably say that, although a window may serve many purposes, its primary purpose is to let light in. Natural light. Sunlight. Stained-glass windows let some light in, but the light is dimmed, discolored, distorted—and gorgeous.

I saw some stained glass this past weekend, and I was caught off guard by how pretty it was. I mean, I stared at it long enough for me to realize that I had been staring at it a long time. As I stared my mind began to race as I thought about how incredible having stained-glass windows in my house would be. I thought about how each piece was colored and then pieced together to form one window. Then I thought to myself, Wait a minute…those are pretty and all, but they kind of stink as windows. Practically speaking, sure they let some light in, but not as much as a clear window. And besides, I’d hardly be able to see out of the darn things! And this is when the gears really started to turn.

If someone were to point to a window and ask, “What do you see?”, how would you respond? Well, if it’s clean, clear, and doing its job correctly, you should not see the window at all; you would likely begin describing what you see outside the window, the light and all that it reflects. If you were looking at a stained-glass window and someone were to ask you the same question, you would likely begin to describe the window. You would continue to gawk at the beauty of that window and what it does to the light. Rarely would you describe the light itself and all that it reflects outside the window.

When we “confess with [our] mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in [our] hearts that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9) we are saved. And although we will serve many purposes, if Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 8:12), then we (Christians), should be the windows through which people are seeing Him. We become windows to the Light. Our primary purpose is to show others the Light. Too often we try to be stained-glass windows. They’re what people want. They’re attractive, they’re cool to look at, they’re whatever. We add our colorful presuppositions into Scripture, we add colors of justification, we may add a hint of fear or maybe even some entitlement to create this hodgepodge that we then try to piece together into one window. But at this point, although we may look more attractive to others, we’re not nearly as useful. The Light is dimmed, discolored, distorted. What people need is a clear window. A window clean, clear, free of anything to detract from its primary purpose.  A window to see the Light and all that it reflects. The Light shines brightest when we stop trying to look pretty and start being completely transparent.

 

[dis]connected

Walking around airports always gets me in a cerebral and contemplative mood. I’m always struck by the diversity in the humanity that exists in the people around me. Some people are saying their last goodbyes, while some are anxiously awaiting their first hello. Some are going home, while some are leaving home. Some are anxious—foot tapping, heart beating, palms sweaty— as they await their first-ever flight, while some can’t wait to end the rigmarole of yet another business trip. I’m also struck by how aloof people are to the others around them. I mean, a woman literally ran right into me as I was checking the arrival/departure board for my departure gate. She, like 85% of the people in the airport, was staring down at her phone. I’m sure whatever she was looking at was very important.

As I walked around the Austin Bergstrom Airport, I saw all the people stuck to their smart phones and I began to think about how incredibly connected we are. We are connected to everything, everyone on this planet. Everything but those closest to us. We become so preoccupied with the false sense of community and [anti]social media that we are slowly but surely losing the very real connection and community that exists right next to us. We are at once more connected and more disconnected to the world around us. We are more connected with the world outside, but are less connected with the people within our own families, and less connected with those we call friends.

While I understand I can’t fix this and that this is more or less just me complaining, I do know that I can make a change in my own life. I can choose to be more connected to people. I can choose to be less connected to this false sense of community and connectedness that I find on social media. While I can’t make a difference in the world at large, I can make a difference in my life. And that’s good enough for now.

Darkness vs. Light [but a little less cliche]

“Don’t let your eyes get used to darkness. Put your hope in what is true.” – JJ Heller, Back Home

Darkness vs Light is a comparison used often in literature and all throughout Scripture to signify good and evil, or some variation of it. As I thought about that idea, I realized how deep that metaphor can run. When we are in a dark room or just a dark place in general, it’s typically a little unnerving. Most of us would not say we are necessarily afraid of the dark, but we’d have to admit that being in complete darkness is a little less than desirable, and we would much rather be in the light. However, our eyes do this funny thing when, after being in the dark a while, they begin to adjust. We begin to get comfortable with the darkness around us and it’s not so scary. If we stay in the dark for long enough, it’s almost as if we could see. Granted, we still can’t see nearly as well as we could if we were in a completely lit room, but we can see enough to get around.

Wheels turning yet?

If the wheels aren’t turning in that beautiful noggin of yours, let me help you out a bit. In our lives, when we are living in sin or in a “dark place”, at the onset, it’s a little scary, unnerving. However, when we stay in those dark places, we begin to grow comfortable. Our perspectives begin to shift and we begin to think to ourselves, “Well, this isn’t so bad anymore.” We fool ourselves into thinking that we can manage this on our own, without the Light that we used to know.

Sometimes these dark places come unwillingly. Someone rapes, molests, or abuses you. A loved one is killed. A spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend cheats on you, you lose your job, and the list goes on. The darkness is real. The darkness is thick. The darkness is scary. However, after being in this darkness for long enough, it becomes comfortable. It becomes familiar. Our eyes adjust in the darkness.  

I like to think of this idea as being comparable to waking up in a dark room. Our eyes open, but the lights are still off, the curtains still drawn. There is a light switch that we can choose to turn on, but we know that it will cause discomfort to our eyes that have adjusted to the darkness. It will be uncomfortable, some might even say painful or harsh. But ultimately, we know that the light is necessary to see clearly.

I would encourage anybody living in a dark place to, first find the light switch. The source of light. Once that Light has been found, turn it on and let it lead you. You may need to squint, or even close your eyes for a time, and if that’s the case, find someone you trust who can lead you until you can open your eyes and walk on your own.

 

Toy Story 3 Will Never Be the Same

I’ve watched Toy Story 3 a bunch of times, but when my class and I watched a while back, I saw it in a completely new way. For the few who haven’t seen the movie (shame on you), the toys mistakenly get taken to a day care when they were supposed to go into the attic. The toys thought they were tossed out and resigned to the fact that they would be day care toys for the rest of their lives. Initially, aside from Woody, the toys thought it was going to be great to be in a day care. They would constantly have kids playing with them, and when those kids grew up, they would have more to play with them. They saw no flaw in that life.

Woody knew where he belonged. The others were ok with settling for replacements. A cycle of replacements. The idea of having a constant cycle of people “using” them and making them feel loved for a time seemed nice. But I wonder if the toys still had this deep longing. A deep longing to belong. This longing to be Andy’s. To be where they knew they belonged all along. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll remember that the “replacement owners” left the toys feeling broken, used, and hurt. While the thought of them was initially intriguing, they brought nothing but pain and destruction.

“No owner means no heartbreak”–Lotso.

While this may be a tempting mantra to follow, we cannot deny the fact that it feels good, it feels right, to know that we have a place to belong. It feels good to know that we are not orphans after all. It feels good to know that Someone loves us and cares about us, even if nobody else does. It gives an undeniable peace and rest to the soul. However, I know it may be difficult or scary to trust God as the place where we belong, especially if you’ve been hurt before by people close to you. But the beauty of God and His love is that He’ll “never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b), even when it may feel like He’s not there for a time. He’s always there. “His love endures forever” (Psalm 100:5). When the toys realized the pain that the replacements caused, they spent the entirety of the movie trying get back to where they belong. With Andy.

Their story is our story. We are in constant need of redemption and are constantly finding our way back to Him. He’s there and He’s waiting with open arms like the father of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-24. The beauty of the gospel is it doesn’t matter what we’ve done or how far we run. When we turn back and go to Him, even while we are far off, He meets us where we are and loves us unconditionally (Luke 15:20).