Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors to the world. I’m putting you on a light stand – shine! – Matthew 5:14 –16 (The Message)
My grandfather is the pastor of a small church in the inner city of Baltimore, Maryland. His church building is not fitted with high tech equipment and perfectly balanced sound systems. There is no electric keyboard, elaborate drum set or perfectly posed lighting staged for televised replays of the services. Instead, the ornate, cherry wood pulpit is aged and worn, with scratches etched into the podium table top from years of steady use. There’s a boxed fan to the left, intended to help cool the sanctuary in the heat of summer and a radiator to the right to warm congregants in winter. A piano, with keys that sound some notes slightly off pitch, anchors the space with reverent dignity while the voices of not quite a dozen members echo off the hollow walls. The seating is arranged in rows of hard, wooden pews and the brown walls are softened by the delicately colored intricacies of stain glass windows – each one a unique gallery of transparent art work through which the outside light of the sun filters.
I’ve been in his church a dozen times or so over the course of my lifetime. Some of our family’s yearly visits to see him (and my grandmother when she was alive) have overlapped a Sunday. Whenever the dates have aligned like this, we’ve gone to church. We’ve filed into the pious symmetry of history and faith that align within the narrow building and listen to my grandfather lead people whom he has served faithfully for nearly five decades.
There’s a warmth and simplicity (or maybe a warmth because of the simplicity) that quiets my soul and refreshes my heart.
I was just there this past Sunday, watching my eighty-nine year old grandfather play at the piano as the sun’s light danced through the multicolored stain glass windows. The light spilled in like a carefully crafted kaleidoscope. The colors – rich and deep – cascaded in even as my grandfather bellowed a hymn over the sparse congregation gathered that morning. The pattern would shift ever so slightly as the position of the sun changed outside, creating a pattern brand new and altogether different. I admired the diversity, beauty and creativity of the borrowed light of the sun, reflecting through the unique individuality of the windows’ prisms.
Uniqueness is what made them beautiful.
Your uniqueness is what makes you beautiful.
Each of us – you and me and everyone else – is designed intentionally individual. We are each designed with intricacies in our physicality and personality that are divinely crafted to become a prism through which the brilliant glory of God is displayed, splashing His glory across every corner of the globe. Our individual lives and every aspect of it are fingerprints, so distinct and diverse that they cannot be duplicated and should not be despised. Not by us or by anyone else. For we have been “fearfully and wonderfully made” inside and out. Just like a stain glass window in an old, holy sanctuary, each life has been designed to be a filter through which the light of our God can make its unmistakable mark on the world. The unique bents, interests, ideas, experiences and expressions of each gender and of every culture reflect and display a kaleidoscope of His beauty to those with whom we cross paths. Even our weaknesses and frailties, brokenness and imperfections become part of the testimony.
Thankfully. Miraculously. He uses it all – making each nuance of our lives a prism for His light to shine through.
The more we settle into our individuality – celebrating it, enjoying it, accepting it and allowing God’s Spirit to transform and illumine it – we become, by His grace, a conduit of His light and love to the world. When we are tempted to conform to the pressure of peers and the mundane boredom of sameness, we quiet our God-given uniqueness until it is barely noticeable. We rob the world of the mark God intended to make through us. Just like an intricately designed stain glass window, no aspect of our creation is a mistake or unintended detail. Even tiny cracks and fissures, evidence of age and toll, become part of the unique reflection. It was created – you were created – and intended to display the light of God that shines with distinction the only way that it can through you.
Stop dulling your uniqueness, sister friend. Comparing and competing as if you do not bear the image of God. Resist the urge to quiet your individuality and blend in. You weren’t made for that. Even the sharpest curves and roughest edges of your past and present can reflect Him in a breathtaking way to those around you.
Determine to be a holy display of His light – borrowed and then expressed through the beauty of your uniquely created, spectacularly distinct life.