September 12, 2010
My thinking this week has grown out of my adventure with lamps.
Arranging for sufficient light is an important part of making a room functional and comfortable. I thought about this as I began to put my house back together after the great painting episode. Common sense suggested that lamps be placed to provide adequate light in task-specific locations (by the piano, by the chair where I read, for example). The light is the important thing, I thought, and apart from their utilitarian function, I assigned lamps themselves a relatively minor significance in the house project.
There was that lamp that hung over the dining room table—the black wrought iron one with odd looking little mini-shades. Plenty of light—but all the men and half the women who have eaten at that table have sooner or later hit their heads on that lamp. And it looked—well, that lamp looked downright peculiar seen against the new gold walls.
And then there was the lamp on the table by the loveseat. Plenty of light—it incorporated a hundred watt bulb. It had an attractive base, but by the end of the first week of reconstruction, I could see that that table and that lamp were never going to make a good fit. The table refused to grow any (it was small by any standard), and the tall lamp refused to shrink, so the two made a Mutt-and-Jeff combination that looked—well, they looked a bit like thrift store orphans when viewed alongside the new loveseat.
And then there was the problem posed by my much loved pair of Aynsley china lamps. The Pembroke pattern and the chaste white elegant shades continued to give me great visual joy. They provided more than sufficient light in the space by the china cabinet where I had placed them. However—and you may not be surprised—I soon lived into the truth that I had underestimated the power of the red accent wall in the dining room. After about two weeks I conceded: those lamps and the red wall, both beautiful, both loved, simply didn’t fit. Change was necessary. H-m-m-m.
As you know, I am teaching about change in the context of Christian spiritual formation, and the lamp adventure sparked some thinking along this line.
As Christians, we understand that through the indwelling Spirit it is the light of Christ that shines through us—His light, His life, through us. The lamp does not make the light. Paul was emphatic about this—Christ in us, Paul wrote, our hope of glory.
Don’t be conformed to this world, Paul warned those early Christians, yet at the same time he urged them to live in such a way that their lives in Christ were attractive to the world around them.
One part of spiritual formation is the Spirit’s work to increase those responses in us that enable others to see what Jesus was actually like—compassionate, loving and kind. This requires our cooperation. Another part of our spiritual formation is the Spirit’s work to enable us to live along side people in a way that encourages life-changing relationships. Similarly, this too requires our cooperation.
My lamps—bless them—had no choice. They are what they are. Not so for me in the way I through the Spirit reflect the Christ light I have been given. I remember singing energetically as a child in Sunday School: “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine.” Today, thinking of my lamp adventure and the challenge of change in myself, I added: “Spirit God, shape me to shine with a beauty and grace-to-fit-in that draws others to Your light.”
What kind of a lamp are you providing for the Light in your life?
With you on the everyday journey.