Shine a (Flash)Light

My daughter as of late has been really into planning these elaborate plays. The most recent is about Daniel and the Lions' Den. The whole family gets to be involved, so we all have our special roles. 

My husband gets to be Daniel, you know, the lead. My daughter gets to be the angel that closes the lions' mouths in the lions' den (which I'm sure has nothing to do with her getting to wear an angel costume). Her younger brother gets the be the lion in the den, which seems very fitting for the three-year-old-spitfire. The baby of course is the king--I'm sure he'll do great? 

My roll you ask? I get to be the person that shines the flashlight on Daniel's (my husband's) head while he is speaking. (I would like to interject here and point out that I am the more animated story reader in this house. I even do voices and stuff. I'm not sure why I was deemed only capable of holding a flashlight!)

But why does Daniel need a light shone on his head? 

"So that you know that God is in him while he is speaking."

I love seeing how my children think about our Heavenly Father. It makes perfect sense that God would be light because He is the light of the world! 

1 John 1: 5-7, "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."

Can people see a (flash)light on you in your everyday life? Can they see that you have God in you? What about your children? Do they see you being a Godly example? What about your coworkers? Do they see you walking a Christian walk? 

I wish I could answer with a resounding "YES!" but the truth is, I can't always. I have so many moments and days that I am not a shining example of God's love. There are times one might even want to know what is in me so that they don't get the same thing. Fortunately for us, through Baptism, through Christ's death on the cross, through our Heavenly Father's unmatchable love, we have forgiveness and salvation. We have a truth that surpasses all understanding. We have God's light shining on us. 

A Light that saves us, no flashlight (or anything) needed.

 

Shine Like Stars (and Fireflies)

My garden has a bunch of fireflies that hang out in my plants during the day, and then glitter up at night. Lots of them. It’s very magical, the more lights the better. Those little bugs always remind me of the section in Philippians about shining like stars, fireflies always have. It also reminds me how a group of us shining our lights together can be a beautiful thing. As Christian women, this can be us shining together.

Do we shine together, though? It’s tough. The mom lifestyle of our generation includes a healthy amount of online research to get a handle on all the latest data and theories about raising babies. Popular topics include car seats, sunscreen, diapers, food, screen time, education. The list goes on. We all do this reading because we love our kids and have the best of intentions. As Christians, we understand we should shine like stars. We understand we should be examples to the world around us. It is really easy, though, to take the wisdom of the world and infuse it into our Christian wisdom. It is really easy to decide that the decisions we make in our own families, in our Christian freedom (the areas God has not specifically spelled out), are the best decisions and if people are wise, they will do exactly the same. It is at this point we should really pause and think about what we are doing.

I found my dog's toy laying in yard one night, bug-eyed and squished on every side. I relate to this Mr. Pig toy most days. Don't most mamas?

I found my dog's toy laying in yard one night, bug-eyed and squished on every side. I relate to this Mr. Pig toy most days. Don't most mamas?

This is the point at which mom-shaming often enters the picture, even for Christian mothers. Mom-shaming is really any kind of condescending attitude towards other moms. It’s a bit of adult bullying, passive-aggressive comments, snarky posts on social media, posting pictures of our impossible-to-follow diet foods along with a pat-myself-on-the-back caption, sharing tons and tons of articles about all the ways to get the mom stuff down to perfection (implying we have implemented all these things personally). When we slip into the guilty pleasure of mom-shaming each other – our spiritual immaturity is showing. Isn’t it true that when we are putting others down it is because of insecurities of our own? Whether we are realizing it or not, we feel a little taller when we stomp down on others. Yet, this behavior doesn’t gain us respect with others and it has nothing to with shining like stars. It is a good way to dim our own lights and those of others. Let’s give each other a break.

Jesus spent his time befriending sinners, amazing grace behavior which he credits to our accounts. His friends never had it all together, many of them dealing with big issues. And yet, we turn around and cut each other down over small things like iPad time and gluten in the name of being good shining examples of motherhood. Love and acceptance can be elusive among moms, that shouldn’t be. We all stand in the same grace.

This is what fireflies do all day. They are pretty relaxed.

This is what fireflies do all day. They are pretty relaxed.

Holding each other to motherhood perfection is not what it means to be shining stars. That is, in reality, just a modern-day Pharisee game in new organic packaging. Just as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day loved their own longs lists of rules, we construct additional rules around motherhood, levels of perfection. Even though they may initially be well-intentioned actions aimed at health and goodness, our little ones watch us getting caught up in this self-righteous behavior and then Facebook boasting about it. So stressful, heavy, exhausting. Spiritually exhausting.

To be a shining star is something much more joyful. It is something lighter, happier, and really isn’t about our own shininess or perfection. To be a shining star is something that happens because you hold firmly to the word of life. It is to love the gospel. It is to spend so much time with your Jesus that all the noise of social media motherhood guidance fades away into the lesser priorities to be handled later, if necessary. It is to hold dear the wisdom given by God (not the internets) through his word for life. Real life. Forever life.

While shining like stars, holding to the word, we will begin to see each Christian woman for her beautiful spiritual gifts before her faults because we see her has a sister in Christ through eyes of faith. Words of encouragement in those gifts will come to mind before the sharp criticism - because that is what the Holy Spirit can work into our hearts through God’s Word. He smooths out our sharp edges and fills us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. All of those things. To each of us, as a gift. Along with that gift, confidence in ourselves as unique, loved children of God.

…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose…. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

- Philippians 2:13,15

It is God who makes us into shining stars, everything we need for that is in his word. We will not find the ability to be a shining star within the collective mothering wisdom of our generation. We will not be stars by just being really good moms. We will not show our children how to be shining stars if we use any source of light other than the amazing sacrifice and love of Jesus. Fall in love with that gospel again and again and your light will shine. Your kids will see, other moms will see. The more lights, the better.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

 

- Philippians 2:12-18