“…let your light shine before others…”
There had been no rain for many months. Like all the other gardens in the village, the widow’s garden withered in the sun. She limped to the door, bearing her weight on her good leg, and looked out at the desolation. Picking up her cane and a watering can, she hobbled out as far as she could go. Gingerly, she eased herself down on the ground. She sat and watered the plants around her. She lovingly removed spent blooms and weeded.
A neighbor walked by. “Widow,” she called, “You waste your time. Nothing can survive this drought.”
The widow just smiled.
Soon, another neighbor walked by. “Widow, what about the plants along your back fence?” she asked.
“I cannot reach them,” answered the widow, honestly.
Another neighbor walked by. “You can’t save your garden,” said the neighbor.
“I’m not trying to save the entire garden,” said the Widow. “I’m just doing what I can do.”
The next day, inspired by the widow’s efforts, the neighbors went out into their gardens and did what they could do. They tended to a few of their plants.
This is how we change the world. We put our energy into that which we can do. We trust that we inspire others to do what they can do. We don’t waste our energy worrying about that which is beyond our reach. That, we leave to God.
“In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.”
I curled up on my couch—candles flickering in the growing dark—as the sun waved farewell and sank into tomorrow-land. I pulled up the comforter from the foot of the couch and wrapped myself in its gentle warmth. It had been a tumultuous day.
“Don’t worry, everything is going to be alright,” God said.
“You’re sure about that?” I asked.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega. Of course, I’m sure.”
“It’s hard to believe that when everything seems to be falling apart,” I told Him.
“You can’t see the big picture, but I can. Trust me, everything works out in the end,” God assured me. “Get some rest; tomorrow is another day.”
I giggled. “You sound like Scarlett O’Hara.” I could hear God smile. “Why do I lose faith when things don’t go as I want them to go?”
“Your ego,” God answered. “You get scared and want to take control.”
“What can I do to trust you better?”
“Breathe. Just breathe.”
“No, seriously God. What can I do?” I asked.
“I was serious. Just breathe. There’s nothing you need to do other than to go on living and let me do what I need to do.”
“You promise you got this?”
“Cross my heart,” God said.
The candles burned brighter as the room grew darker. I watched the flames dance to the beat of a drum I couldn’t hear. Much like I can’t hear God’s drumbeat. It’s not meant for my ears. All I can do is trust that He’s beating the drum perfectly. I can breathe when I can no longer see His hand, and I get scared. And I can remind myself that tomorrow is another day.
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.”
~1 John 4:20
“It’s the most important work you’ll ever do,” God said to me as I weeded my flower garden.
“Pulling out dandelions?” I asked, incredulous.
“No,” God laughed. “Seeking the barriers you have built in your heart to love and dismantling them. You’ve been praying about your work, and this is my answer.”
“What does that mean, exactly, to seek the barriers to love and dismantle them?” I asked, wanting God to be more specific.
“Like every baby that comes into my world, you were born with a whole heart. Love is your default position. But as people wounded you, you learned to fear. You learned to protect yourself by putting others down, or worse, vilifying or demonizing them. You stopped seeing them as my precious children. You aren’t the only one who does this. Everyone does this. It’s everyone’s most important work to heal their wounds so that they can love with a whole heart again,” explained God.
“How do we heal our wounded hearts?” I asked.
“You start by being aware of every instance you feel afraid or angry. You become aware of what you say and do. You learn to forgive, and you learn to be humble. You learn that by helping others, you are helping yourself, too,” God said.
I wiped a tendril of hair from my face with my dirty glove. I could feel the earth cling to my cheek.
“That dirt on your face?” God asked. “That’s where you came from. It is where you will return. Your time on Earth is short compared to eternity with me. Use your time to heal, to dismantle your barriers to love. Nothing else matters as much as that. I want you to come home to me with a whole heart.”
I thought about my family and friends that annoy me—their difference in opinions and perceptions—and I wondered how I might turn towards them, instead of pulling away, or worse, not listening to them at all. And I realized that God was asking me to not only do the obvious work of not hating or harming others; He was asking me to work on the subtle, almost imperceptible feelings and opinions—the judgements—that barricade me from loving fully.
I nodded. I understood. Our journey here is all about learning how to heal our wounded hearts so that we can love fully; so that we can take a whole heart home.
“I am the light of the world.”
Every morning before the sun has made her shy debut in the East, I go out walking. This morning I watched a lone bicycle rider approach from a distance, his little front light flickering, exposing dangers on the road. I stood transfixed, watching his light carve out the right path for his tires to follow.
When the rider passed by, I continued my walk, pondering the notion of light. Jesus said that He was the light of the world, I thought to myself. Like the light on the bike, He showed us the right path; He showed us how to live. Why aren’t we living as He showed us how to live?
It’s hard to be Christlike. We have to put aside our egos. We have to love others. We have to forgive. We have to be of service to others. We have to put God first. We have to have faith in things unseen. It’s a tall order. Yet it’s the right path. It’s the safest path! I made a promise to renew my trust in God’s light. Just as I was lifting my prayer up to God, the sun peered over the horizon. The clouds blushed pink as the last of the stars surrendered to the early morning light. I slowed my pace and let my senses delight in the freshness of the new day. “I’ll let you be my light,” I said to God. “I’ll do my best to live the life you showed us how to live.”
I hope that today you will renew your trust in God’s light. I hope that like me, you will want to live as Christ showed us how to live. I hope too, that we will all love as He loved— with His whole heart.
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.”
A tree grew in the depths of a forest. Every year it watched men come and chop down other trees to use to make fine furniture. Every year they passed over the tree, for it was too rough and twisted. As the years passed, the tree resigned itself to never being useful. It would never end up in someone’s home as a beautiful table or desk.
One morning, two men came into the forest. They ran their hands over the tree. “This one will do,” said one of the men as he lifted an ax to chop down the tree. After a few strokes, it fell to the ground. The men carried it out of the woods, into town. They sawed and hammered the tree. When they were done, they placed it on the back of a carpenter. Amid a frenzied crowd, He labored to carry it up a hill. When they arrived at the top of the hill, His hands and feet nailed to the tree. For many hours, He hung bleeding, His arms stretched out wide. Later, some men gently took Him down and wrapped Him in grave cloth and took Him away. Night fell. God whispered to the tree, “You’ve done well. Thank you.”
“Why are you thanking me?” the tree said. “I don’t know what I’ve become, but I’m not a beautiful table or desk.”
“You are far more beautiful than a table or a desk,” God said.
“How can that be?” The tree asked. “I’m full of imperfections. I’m useless.”
“You don’t have to be perfect to do my work,” God explained. “Many that I choose are imperfect, just like you.”
The tree had no way of knowing just how big a role it had played in God’s Kingdom. You and I don’t know how big our roles are, either. In our rough and twisted, imperfect lives, God uses us in ways we’ll never understand. We may worry that others are better, that the roles they are chosen for are more important. But we worry needlessly. Our imperfections are perfect for the work God uses us for.