I recently told a small handful of good friends about my blog — with the sincere goal that I would have no expectations for their responses, or if they would even read it. This is not a performance for me to receive feedback. While I love hearing from friends in comments, how others receive my offering is not the point. A week after admitting to my blog, I am riddled with doubts. The voice in my head spews accusations. “No one is that interested in your stuff.” “You don’t even live the life you speak about in the blog.” “Your art is very elementary.” “Everyone has a house, decorations…” “People might disagree or be offended…they might reject you.”
ALL those statements have elements of truth in them. I am not all that special of gifted. I struggle to live to what I have already attained. I may get some things “wrong” or just write a boring blog that doesn’t touch another soul! These thoughts are all parts of what I like to call “the little picture,” and they often leave me confused and afraid.
But there is a big picture in life. The one where God is central and Truth reigns – often contrary to worldly wisdom. I do have a set of experiences and personality traits unique to me. I do bear the image of God, and have a responsibility to offer back who He made me to be. I love this quote: “Our gifts are not from God to us, but from God through us to the world.” Janice Elsheimer, The Creative Call. I knew the truth in all those attacks when I first put my blog out in cyber space, but I knew a larger Truth too. I hope many people are touched, encouraged, or helped by something I offer, but if no one is, there is a BIGGER picture. I am still sharing myself in obedience to a gentle nudge. I am discovering who God created me to be in this season of life, and sharing my reflections along the way. He is glorified when I ignore my fears and risk offering my authentic self to the world.
But man, oh man — the voices in my head! Putting a blog out with no “advertisements” is only slightly less private than my 5 foot high stack of private journals or my guest closet full of paintings! Telling a few friends is a step. “Going public” on facebook or to extended family members would really stretch me! And it is my goal… but first, I must address my fears, confusion and doubt and let them be overshadowed by the big picture. My hope is that my musings will touch a similar place of attack in your life — and we will both be more free to live as we are, sharing our gift with those we meet.
I have always written out long-hand my thoughts and eventually many of my prayers. I have journaled and often illustrated my experiences and feelings from trips, school, dating and plain, everyday life. I have doodled, painted, decorated, cooked – all in an attempt at creating art and beauty. But, there was more to it. Usually the outpouring was kept private. So why bother? Why not imagine, contemplate, and create only in my mind?
I do all these things because I love them. They are the essence of “me” spilling over. I can hardly help myself, and I feel most fully alive when I am engaged in my art — whether it is writing, painting, conversations, flowers, decorating… The better question is why do I so often keep my art — myself — hidden? And why do you sometimes keep the essence of who you are hidden?
There’s a song I’ve known all my life that’s baffled me as an adult: “This Little Light of Mine.” When, with all the other Sunday school children, I yelled “NO!” in the line “hide it under a bushel, no! I’m gonna let it shine”, I was uninhibited. I could not have hidden my light if I tried! I hadn’t learned that I can’t carry a tune, or even that it mattered. I was just me, living in the moment! My voice and enthusiasm were my offering of passion and love to a God I was just getting to know! Hiding had not been learned because I saw no need. It came naturally to dance like no one’s watching and live like everyone loves me! I lived with abandon and without an critics — un-phased by applause or critiques. Awesome!
Sometime in early elementary school, an awareness of the opinions of others was learned. Their praise made me feel more valuable, important, and loved. I wanted to crawl under a rock if they ever felt I was inadequate in any way. Inhibitions, hiding, and self protection crept into my life if not my vocabulary. My imagination and private world prospered! I learned to go public only when I knew I could excel!
I grew up and wondered what it really meant to let my light shine. I knew the child’s song was based on the familiar verse Matthew 5:16. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” I like verses 14-16 in The Message translation: “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.” Did that mean Bible thumping on the street corners? Starting an important ministry? Leading Bible studies? Sharing the Gospel at work? Giving as much as possible? All these are possibly part of it, yes, but not necessarily always and not the entirety of the big picture. It’s much simpler than that.
Letting my light shine is to live with faith in the Love, worth and security that God offers — to live in the BIG picture where He is central. Ephesians 2:10 says “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” All I can offer is the person He made me to be — my deepest identity — to Jesus in the presence of others! In as many ways as He suggests! What Jesus does or doesn’t do with my offerings in the lives of others is HIS business! It’s not up to me! What a freedom, relief and joy! I only need to love Him, love others, listen as I seek Him and follow.
But now I have to press “publish” for you to read my thoughts. It’s still hard every time. Part of me is excited, another scared of judgement or worse yet, no one caring. I have victorious moments where I am lost in Him! It’s also part of my little world truth that often I live under a bushel where my light is ineffective. I am slow to live everyday in the realities of all God is teaching me. I am impatient with myself, until I remember that I am not the one transforming me! God will complete the work He is doing in me. Just because I can’t live perfectly the way I want to, doesn’t mean I don’t believe with all my heart what God is telling me is possible — including that I am meant to share my imperfect life with others.
My present is all I have. I want to show up and say “YES!” to God with all the conviction and abandon I had as a child singing “NO!” I won’t hide my light!