“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” ~~ 1 Peter 2:9
Darkness and light are what make an object appear three-dimensional on a flat surface. The object in the shadows is more hidden and the light reveals more of its true nature. Likewise, we are not our true selves when we are in the darkness. When we are in the light, we are more like who we were born to be: the image of the living God whom we know in Jesus Christ. We are called out of the darkness of ordinary life into the life and light of Christ when Christ claims us in our professing of faith in his life, death and resurrection for our salvation. When we give up trying to save ourselves, we proclaim his mighty deeds with our walk, our witness, and our service to the body of Christ we know both as “the church” and “the poor.” Jesus said to those who were faithful, “I was hungry and you gave me food…” (Matt 25:35).
The beginning artist sometimes has difficulty getting either enough light or enough shadow in their painting or drawings. The values all tend toward the middle range; there’s not enough contrast to emphasize any area of their work. Rembrandt knew how to make his works sing! He always had enough darkness to make the lights seem very bright indeed. Even this unfinished painting has enough contrasts of light and dark to define the light from the shadows.
Our faith lives sometimes lack contrast because they aren’t different from the lives the world leads. We don’t “shine like stars in the world” which is in darkness (Phil 2:15). We aren’t the contrast that the world is looking for, and so our lives aren’t attractive to them. We live “gray lives” when instead our lives should be full of the light of Christ!
Perhaps we don’t hear the call of God clearly enough, for the sound of “sheer silence” or the still small voice of God that Elijah heard in the wilderness isn’t very often heard in the midst of the rush and busyness of human life. (1 Kings 19:12). God’s voice is more often heard when we are ourselves still, silent, apart and waiting expectantly and often. This alone is reason enough to find the appointed place and time for each of us to “meet God,” to be found waiting faithfully for his appearance and his affirmation by his calling our name, “God’s own people,” “My Beloved.”
Just as I have my appointed place to work—my studio—I also have my appointed places to meet God. My easy chair has a nest of books beside it: Bible, journal, pens, concordance and some books by other spiritual writers that encourage me. It awaits me each morning at 6:30. Sometimes I sit with my coffee in the quiet for a while, other times I am ready to write in my journal. Sometimes I need to check my friends on Facebook when I know they are going through a rough patch. Mostly I need this quiet time with God and no one else. Afterwards, I am ready for the world, ready for work, ready for my day. I used to be an extrovert, always on the go, always on, always with other people. Now I confess to needing my quiet time with God as much as I need my work time, and my people time! In fact, I enjoy my time with others more because I have had my time with God. I work with more passion and strength because I have had the quiet and the silence to focus my life on what is beautiful and what is true.
My other appointed place to meet God is at my Church. I found a place of worship that centered on God, not a minister or the people. The purpose of our church is to “Connect people to God, to one another, and to the community” around us. We are a downtown church, so we do a lot of mission work with the poor and we have teams that go abroad also. We can be taught all the history of the Bible and all the facts of our faith, but if our hands don’t lift to help a neighbor in need, we aren’t living our faith in the light of Christ.
But God in his wisdom finds ways to meet us any place and any time. God is the master of the unexpected, for when we least expect to see him, he’ll find a way to come to us! We might be washing dishes or pumping gas into the truck or buying groceries. Unless we are prepared and receptive however, we will most likely miss this moment. To prepare our hearts and minds for the chance encounters, the practice of sitting still before God is worthwhile. This week set a time aside for a quiet time: make it an appointment in your Day Timer, or iCal or write it on your hand and look at the clock. Show up in this place and put on the “I’m invisible hat” and just breathe deep for thirty minutes. If you sleep through it, God knows you need that nap! Remember, God can work in you to restore you even when you aren’t working. Maybe to be a light, your battery needs charging. Spend this week on “being present to God,” and let God be present to you.