Shine Like a Star
“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” (Philippians 2:14-16 NIV)
A few Christmases ago God taught me an important lesson, a lesson that I have been reminded of as I have looked at my Christmas star lit up in my window each night during this holiday season.
A few years ago I went to Wal-Mart to buy a movie for Joe for Christmas, and as I went to check out at the register I ended up behind an older gentleman with an oxygen tube. There was only one person ahead of him in the process of checking out and so seeing that all I had was one movie he told me to go ahead of him. I said, “Are you sure?” And he replied, “Yes, for it is only me.” He then joked that I could buy his cookies because his grandchildren would be blessed. He had four bags of cookies.
Anyway, in that moment my heart really felt compassion for this man, for I began to hope that he really did have grandchildren and that he truly wasn’t really just by himself. But no matter, for I found myself whispering to the female clerk that I wanted to buy his cookies. And well, she was greatly taken aback and began asking me if I knew him, but I simply told her that he had joked with me. She then began to ring up my movie and his cookies and put them in a bag, and all the while neither of us knew if the gentleman was attuned to what was happening or not. She however continued to be amazed and I could tell that she had never seen anyone do what I was doing. So, sweetly and genuinely she told me to have a Merry Christmas.
After it was over I later mentioned to Joe that that moment may have been more for the woman then for the older gentleman, which is all the more reason why I found myself later regretting the fact that I hadn’t even once thought to look at that woman and say, “The love of Christ compels me,” or something of the like that would have given God the glory and pointed her to Him. I mean, I didn’t even happen to have my silver cross necklace on in that moment, which was very rare for me.
Well anyway, the next day I did a devotional out of the Our Daily Bread on James 1:19-27. Starting with verse 22 James says, “But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in the mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
Anyway what really stuck out to me was the inspirational that went along with this passage. It said that “we are reminded that we as Christ-followers are living observed lives. Others are watching us. And our concern for others, particularly the least among us, is an expression of the compassion Christ displayed to the hurting and outcast of His generation.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, challenged believers to put the love of Christ into practice. . .
The example of Christ and the words of Scripture inspire us to care for our hurting world. Who is watching us? Our world is watching. And so is our Lord!”
We after reading that, as you can imagine, I once again started to think about that Wal-Mart moment, and found myself again regretting not being able to look at that cashier and tell her that the love of Christ compelled me. For, I began to even believe that it wasn’t by accident that I didn’t even have my silver cross necklace on, because I always had it on. It is extremely rare to find me without it, and yet in that one moment it wasn’t there to speak for me.
I then started thinking about whether or not Christ would be able to shine through me without it, if it wasn’t there to speak for me like it was for me once when I was in Japan and didn’t know the language. Back then in order to witness to an older gentleman and his family I had pointed to my cross necklace and then bowed, after he had bowed to the Buddhist alter in his house to show me his tradition. If I didn’t have a physical cross anywhere on my body, would people still know that I was a Christian?
Well, wouldn’t you know it, but during this same quiet time back then God brought to my mind the fact that it had taken over a year for me to get around to putting new light bulbs into the light fixtures outside my house, but I finally did it. But to save money, I still turned them off right before I went to bed however, which was something I didn’t used to do. I used to leave them on all night long in order to bring light to the darkness and to bless my neighbors. So anyway, that night, like I had been doing, I turned them off, but I think I quenched the Spirit, for I began to hear a still small voice telling me that it was time to shine.
Anyway, the revelation that all of this led me too was that maybe I couldn’t depend on my necklace anymore, for it was just a symbol. Christ however is not just a symbol, He is the Word. He is the Word made flesh, but now I was the Word made flesh, Christ in me. I began to reflect on the fact that we should be living so much in the power of the Holy Spirit that when people see our lives that they know that there is a God. Like I once said, I want to live in such a way that people want my God; that they want to taste and see that He is good. But was I doing that? You know, it was hard for me to think of never wearing my silver cross necklace again, but I began to think that maybe that’s actually what I needed; that maybe if I didn’t wear it that I would be more conscious of the need to represent the Lord with my actions and words. That I would be more conscious of the fact that it was I that needed to shine for people more so than my necklace, for as Christ’s body we are now the Word made flesh.
Anyway, after this I started to get a strong desire to have some sort of outside light Christmas display, mostly to bless my neighbors. It was a strong desire which is why I knew deep down that it wasn’t necessarily to please my neighbors or to be like them, I just simply wanted to share in the blessing that it was to have so many houses in our circle lit up, the way I used to feel when I kept my outside house lights on all night. So anyway, around this time I started looking, whenever I had the chance, for outdoor nativity sets. But, sadly they were very scarce. However, eventually on my search my eye caught a star. It was simply a star made of white lights to be hung on your door or in a window, and it was even on sale. And well, I don’t know how to explain it, but I just instantly knew that this was it. So I bought it and ended up hanging it on the inside of my house, putting it in my bedroom window, which is my home’s front window, and it shone bright from the inside out.
Around this same time, due to his anxiety over getting all of his Christmas presents finished, Joe asked if he could sleep on my basement couch, for all of his materials were in my basement where he had been making his gifts and he knew he’d be working late to finish them. Well, at first I hesitated, but then told him that it would be okay and I went upstairs to bed.
Anyway, the next day after the events that I am about to talk about, Joe mentioned that he had also had thoughts that night revolving around the fact that he shouldn’t have stayed at my house. But anyway, that morning I got up and started to have my quiet time in my bedroom since Joe was down in my basement, my usual quiet time room. That morning before my quiet time, although I took the time to put on my makeup, I didn’t do my hair but simply pushed it back with a headband. I also simply put on a brown zip up sweater without another shirt underneath. And well, although decent, it made for a funny scenario that I have to say made some of my friends laugh.
Anyway, as I was sitting in my chair having my quiet time in my bedroom, since the curtain to my front window was raised, I had a clear view of Joe’s nieces approaching my front door. It was clear that they had decided to stop by since they saw Joe’s car parked in front of my house. Apparently they had stayed the night at their friend’s house that lives in my same cul-de-sac. Well, instantly I became very anxious and didn’t know what to do. My first instinct was to hide and of course not answer the door, but instead I went downstairs. I then noticed that Joe had gotten up and had gone into the back room. He was frantically getting dressed and although we talked back and forth about ignoring the door, and about what we would say if we answered it, Joe decided to run up and answer the door. However, the reason why I didn’t want to answer it was because of the way we looked, for like I mentioned before, I actually looked like I had just quickly thrown on clothing and my hair was messy, and Joe had also just thrown on clothing and his hair was also messy, so as you can imagine the appearance of impropriety was all around.
Anyway, God was exposing our tolerance and our indifference, for we used to be very cautious about the appearance of impropriety. However, it has become easy to let myself get to a place where I did not care about what my neighbors thought, mostly because I hardly know them. But, as you can see, God was teaching us a lesson. He did care. He cares that His children shine for Him in all things.
Well, I ended up hiding in the basement, in a back room, while Joe went and answered the door. He briefly talked to his nieces and the neighbor kid, showing them what he had been working on in my basement. I learned later that he mentioned that the reason why I hadn’t come to the door was because my hair was messy. Ug! How awful.
I was so frustrated, and not just with Joe. I was frustrated because I wasn’t actually doing anything shameful. In fact I had been having my quiet time, spending time with the Lord. But nonetheless, I see now that the appearance of impropriety was hiding the truth, maybe not from God but from people, my neighbors. And well, it greatly bothered me because I was doing something that these girls should have been told about.
Anyway, Joe and I had a long discussion afterward and well, it was then that he admitted that he shouldn’t have stayed and even felt at the time that he shouldn’t have, and we both from that moment on decided that he would not sleep on my couch again, not until we are officially married. You know, it broke our hearts that we were not being a testament to his nieces of another way to live, for because of this situation we were not seen as set apart, as living a different kind of life then other people in their lives that we know of, even though we were.
And on that note what I really believe that God was saying is that just like I can’t hide behind my cross necklace, the same applied to the cross that hangs outside my front door. The tangible cross sadly has lost a lot of power, for nowadays most everyone uses crosses as jewelry and decoration, whether they believe in the power of the cross or not. I mean, just because someone wears a cross necklace or has some sort of cross decoration in or on their home or garden, doesn’t mean that what truly goes on inside of their home glorifies the Lord, and this goes for not only our tangible home structures but our bodies as well.
Well as I eventually went back and finished my time with the Lord, I began to reflect on how God had been calling me to shine, and I came to realize once again that my house was much like my personality. My natural instinct is to hide. As an introvert, I have no problem being alone and or sitting at Christ’s feet soaking in His presence. However, what I believe that God was showing me is that even though the inside of my house, this physical structure that I live in, may glorify the Lord and testify to the Lord, as represented by that cross that hangs outside my front door, no one really knows it. Likewise, even though my heart may glorify the Lord, maybe having a constant “quiet time,” as represented by the cross I wear around my neck, how is anyone truly to know? What am I doing or saying to show the world that God is alive; that He is alive in me? Because for all they know I am just another one of those average American Sunday morning only Christians, or worse not even a Christian at all.
So, I asked the Lord to forgive me. I told Him that I needed to stop “hiding” away from people, and that I needed to start testifying. I needed to stop hiding my story, my light under a bushel. I needed to let my actions and my words point to God, to glorify Him.
To finish the story, after asking that God would help us with the above scenario, He did. He calmed the storm and in fact it made most people laugh, including Joe’s mom and his sister, his niece’s mother. However, it did serve a great purpose, for it did bring conviction to Joe and I and he still hasn’t slept on my couch overnight since.
Lord, even now please help me to shine for my neighbors, not with just artificial light from a fake star that still shines from my front window, but truly from a spiritual light that comes from within me; that comes from the person who lives within me, Jesus Christ. Thank You.
Finally, that next Monday when I met with my lady friend Connie, she gave me my birthday present. It was a star necklace. God was speaking. And from that moment on, I decided to wear it in place of my cross, not as a symbol to everyone else, like my cross necklace had been, but as a reminder to myself that in order to be Christ to others that I needed to SHINE! So today during this 2012 Christmas season I say through my words and actions with God’s help: “The love of Christ compels me!”