“Be a good example.”
I have heard this familiar refrain my entire life. It’s a message I picked up at a young age as I distinctly recall a mother asking her daughter (in front of me), “Why can’t you be more like Christy?” I could barely breathe. The horror. That didn’t work too well for her. Those words proved to be toxic for both of us, for different reasons. I am positive that precious little girl was supposed to be herself, not me. In fact, I feel physically sick, sitting here thinking about it. “Be a good example.” A message I picked up from being in the fishbowl of a second generation ministry family, a first born daughter, existing to carry the weight of the world on my little shoulders. Wow. This could turn into a long story…
I was listening to the radio this morning, one that plays worship music, and the DJ was introducing the next song, encouraging the listeners to “be examples to people in their lives,” but the words fell flat this time and I heard myself saying out loud, “I don’t want to be an example. I want to be a life giver.”
An example is defined as “one that serves as a pattern to be imitated or not to be imitated.”
I don’t want to be imitated. There is one of me. There is one of you.
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, The Message)
I am not here primarily to be an example. I am here to be light. Right now. In this moment. In my little world. So are you.
What overwhelmed me most about my fresh encounter with God through the film, “Les Miserables” last week, was the experience of being ravished once again by His grace…His nonsensical, crazy, audacious, messy, brutal, amazing grace. Overwhelmed again to the core, I was.
To me, that is what that whole film is about. Once you experience grace, truly experience it…in the the very marrow of your being…the only response is to receive it and then offer it to everyone you meet, those who seem worthy and those who seem unworthy. What do we know anyway? Everyone is worth a Son, as my seminary professor used to say. It was as if Jean Valjean had no other option than to bleed grace. It flowed out of him. Freely. Because he never forgot that His soul had been rescued by God who showed up through one man’s act of lavish grace. Light pierced darkness. And he was saved. In every sense of the word.
Here’s my heart’s desire–to overflow with the grace of God, his love, his peace, his pleasure, his hope. My dream is that you might perhaps feel some of that coming from Him through me. Is that too lofty?
I don’t want to be an example. I want to breathe life, the life of God with every breath. In and out. Grace upon grace.
I want to be a beacon of light that simply pierces darkness. And I know that is freakin’ impossible without the Holy Spirit lighting me up from the inside. I can’t turn on the light. No way.
I want you to know that you are redeemed, you are chosen, you are called, you have purpose. You matter. You are the beloved, the one Jesus loves. His favor rests on you.
I don’t want to show you how to live.
Did Jesus really come to show us how to live? Perhaps partly, but that was more of a side benefit, a happy gift along the way. He came to set us free. Free from sin, death, fear, bondage, hopelessness. He came to show us how the Father feels about us, His posture toward us, His life-giving, sacrificial love for us. He came to show us that in His presence, everything changes.
He said it, here in Luke 4,
8 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
I don’t want to be an example. I want you to be captured by the love of God. His favor has come. He is waiting to set you free. Light pierces darkness.
Breathing in. Breathing out…
…in the unforced rhythms of grace,
This was originally published in January, 2013