I started an online class this week. Our first assignment was to get on and introduce ourselves. Until today I had been very excited about starting class back. But then I got on the introductions. I found myself lost in a forest of credentials, long-time relationships, people who were articulate, people who were already annoying, people who I was definitely smarter than….
With each small bio I began to compare their resume to mine. I began to evaluate what good things each of them brought to the table and then had to decide if those good things were better or worse than my good things.
It is a dangerous game to play.
But if we are honest, this is how we live most of our lives.
We compare. Am I better than this person? Are they better than me? Why can’t I be more like her? Why am I not able to do the things they are able to do?
This kind of thinking leads us down the road of judgment of others and of ourselves very quickly. This is not a fun way to live.
I was struck this week by the 1 Cor 12 passage as we focus on light.
Light can take on a lot of forms. It can be many colors and have different degrees of brightness. The difference comes from what you shine a light through. The different vessels of light show different aspects of the light. The same light shining through different vessels will take on different qualities.
The source of light is the same. The result just looks differently from vessel to vessel. And the difference doesn’t diminish the beauty of the light. It actually increases it. The same beam of light can be beautiful in hundreds and thousands of different ways.
I think this is what Paul refers to in 1 Cor 12. We all have different gifts. We all reflect the light in different ways. When we allow the light of Jesus to shine through us, we refract the light in different, new, and beautiful ways. The diversity of ways the light shines through increasingly shows the beauty of Jesus.
So instead of constantly looking at how other people reflect light in ways we don’t, we need to learn to see the beauty in the light’s diversity.
This saves us from having to be judgmental of others or ourselves. It reminds us that each human we come in contact with, no matter how bothersome they may be to us, is designed to reflect light in a beautiful and unique way. They aren’t a problem to be avoided, they are something beautiful.
It also can save us from a tremendous amount of guilt. Just because I am not called to the same things or don’t have the same gifts that I appreciate in another person does not mean I am any less of a Christian or a person. Just because my gifts are not the gifts society or church culture place on a pedestal doesn’t mean they aren’t equally as important.
We are called to shine.
Occasionally this means adjusting and moving until the light comes through us in just the right way. Occasionally this means finding the kind of darkness that needs your light the most. And it always requires us to be constantly open to and aware of the source of the light.
You aren’t called to shine the light in the same way as other people. You are called to find the way the light shines through you the brightest.
What kind of adjustments have you made to make the light shine brighter in your life?