“You may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9 NKJV
Perhaps it was partially due to the new Star Wars movie hitting the big screen, but in the dwindling days of 2015, the dichotomy between light and dark was consuming my thoughts and challenging my paradigms. So on one of the darkest days of December, I chose LIGHT as my word of the year, and shared some foundational truths about light to start the year.
But this year, in 2016, light didn’t always look like I thought it would. Because even a big leap of faith is only the first step.
I fixed my eyes on the unseen, which is every bit as paradoxical as it sounds.
In reflection, I see that there is one overarching message that shined the brightest this year:
Let Light Lead.
Letting light lead is dancing with an invisible partner to a delightful rhythm.
It is running the race marked out for me with perseverance, eyes fixed on Jesus.
It is closing my eyes, opening my hands, and dropping everything I thought I needed.
When we stepped out of the darkness and into His light, a veil caused by sin was lifted and our eyes were made clear. It was marvelous and fantastic and freeing to finally see God unveiled.
But it wasn’t all that I had expected.
I suppose I expected perfect clarity by the world’s standards, a 5 (maybe 10 MAX)-step plan to this “race marked out for me.” Just show me the pylons and the finish line and I will run! Wait, actually I will probably need to know how long the race is too before I get started…you know, so I can pace myself.
That’s all I need, God: just give me some boundaries about what this race will entail. I mean, I’m not going to lose my health right? Or my job? Or my husband? Or my house? Or my identity? And how long is this going to take, anyways?
I was insisting on limitations from my limitless God.
I was going crosseyed trying to keep one eye on the light of the world, and the other on the Light of the World.
Because clearing my eyes was only half of the treatment plan for letting light lead. The other half was a new lens. God could reveal Himself to me plain as day, but unless I did my part and donned the lens He provided, my vision would remain unclear.
This lens is the truth: the Word of God revealed through the Scriptures, and the will of God revealed through the Spirit.
Where I once saw obscurity, I now see mercy.
He already told me what it was going to cost:
“Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” – Luke 14:33
And in the predawn quiet of blustery mornings in February, He whispered the plan:
“I am preparing you for something. You must let me prepare you. You must trust that my preparations are sufficient.”
Oh how I longed for Him to show me what the preparations were for! But alas, through this new lens I now see that this unclarity was a mercy: If He had shown me all that this year would hold, I would have run ahead of Him and tried to prepare myself. I would have failed. Or I might have done an about-face and booked it the other way. He loves me far too much to let that happen.
He was preparing me for jubilation standing just in front of suffering. One perfect day followed by months of tribulation.
In His mercy, He fixed my eyes on August 6 and fully equipped me to testify to His goodness on that day. My eyes did not move, but a focal shift would reveal the suffering that lurked just beyond. And unbeknownst to me, He was really preparing me for both.
Where I once saw strength, I now see perfect weakness.
If you have ever planned a wedding, you may agree that the best word for the process is consuming. It is inescapable and unavoidable: it feels as if everything and everyone is shouting at you simultaneously, begging for your attention. There is just so much that needs to be done. Really, we were spared most of it because we did not start planning the details until a few months before the date.
But those three months were among the busiest of my life. The truth is I had to put my nose to the grindstone and work really hard to get everything into place. God didn’t book our caterer or make the spreadsheets or color all the signs. Because His preparations were unseen.
My tendency is to put on blinders and make all the lists and worry about all the details. He saw me slipping on the edge of perseverance, down the slope of perfection, heading for the pit of pride. He protected me with perfect peace.
He told me, plainly, “It is all going to work out. My Name will be glorified. You have nothing else to worry about. Be still.”
So I stopped worrying, and He started moving mountains. It was the first of a series of releases, a single finger pried from the steering wheel of my life. A controlled experiment to build my trust.
But really He had been preparing me for months. On a dark April evening, He had asked me for everything and I lifted it up freely.
3 weeks after the wedding, I fell ill and couldn’t work for a few days. The next finger was pried away.
Then the next.
Then the next.
Then we knew it was Lyme disease, but that provided no more control.
As the months wore on and physical healing did not come, I became weaker and weaker until my hands were empty and lifted high. I was no longer even pretending to steer my own life.
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
Where I once saw sorrow, I still see sorrow but accompanied by joy.
A friend told me this year: “sorrow sits on the same shelf as joy.” They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, Jesus commands us to both:
“He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” – Isaiah 53:3 NLT
“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” – John 15:11 NLT
If I am honest, neither sorrow nor joy come naturally to me. I tend to run away from my feelings, to fix problems before they cause hurt. But some problems cannot be fixed with earthly means. Some trials are far too valuable to be covered up. And feelings need to be felt. This year, He let me truly feel both.
We went to Culver’s for a drive-thru date last night. The flavor of the day was Salted Double Caramel Pecan. We indulged.Salty tears covered by the sweetness of grace is a decadent delight far richer than either element individually (and far more delicious than the custard, just for the record). Through His lens, I see that joy is deepened by suffering, and suffering is capitalized by joy.
What’s next? 2017. In light of 2016, I see my new word plainly:
What was your word of the year for 2016? What did you see through it? Leave a comment below! Shine on, beloveds.