Friends, can I be honest with you today? I have been battling some deep insecurities over the past week. I am not generally an insecure person, but last week my son began preschool and I found myself dreading the meet-and-greet.
What if all of the other moms are more put-together than I am? (And by “put-together”, I mean prettier, #letsbehonest.)
What if they all know each other and their kids are friends already?
What if they notice that I desperately need a pedicure?
What if I’m wearing the wrong thing?
What if we aren’t the “right kind of people” for this preschool? It’s near an incredibly wealthy neighborhood and maybe we won’t fit in.
It’s hard for me to share these thoughts with you, but they are an honest glimpse into my heart for the past week. Preschool anxiety is real (and ugly)! Also, my sweet son has chosen his favorite outfit to wear to this first day and, bless his heart, it’s just a little worn out and somewhat small. He loves it though, and it gives my normally shy child confidence that he would not otherwise have, so there is no way this mama is making him change. But, again, the thoughts started: Will the other kids be wearing button-downs and Rolex’s? (If you haven’t noticed, I’m prone to hyperbole.)
As these anxieties and insecurities have rolled around in my heart, the Holy Spirit has gently been bringing conviction and perspective. The thing about insecurity is that as we dwell in that space, our entire focus is turned inward on ourselves. By any standard, this isn’t a healthy way to live, but by Christian standards it’s for sure not the way we are designed to live. And that is where the conviction came. As a follower of Jesus, I am called to be light in a world that has so much darkness. In fact, Jesus says:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
We are called to be light so that those around us will glorify God (v16). As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” As disciples of Jesus, our lives should be lights that point to our Savior.
As I continued considering these things, I realized the amazing opportunity that I have this year. There are 13 other kids in my son’s class. Among 13 sets of parents and two teachers, it seems certain that there are untold stories, heartaches, struggles, and hardships that I may never know the details of. What I do know though, is that if I actively remove my focus from myself and place it squarely back on Jesus, I have an opportunity to build genuine friendships with the other preschool moms and maybe, just maybe, bless them and point them to my precious Savior.
I decided that I needed a “preschool playbook” of sorts for myself. Something on paper that I could return to when insecurities threaten to rise up again. Pen in hand, I jotted down six bullet points to use as a way to check myself (so I don’t wreck myself, if you get my gist). I don’t know what it is that causes you to turn your gaze from Jesus and instead focus inward. Perhaps it’s stress, anxiety (I have that one too!), difficult coworkers, or insecurities in a different setting or group of people. Whatever the case, I offer you my preschool playbook as encouragement. I’m titling mine, “Six Ways to be Light in a Dark World”, but you can change the name of yours to, “Rude Coworkers Playbook” or whatever fits. My hope is that together we are reminded of what really matters-pointing people to Jesus. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shout Jesus with our lives as we lay ourselves down and love others fiercely. This isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Who’s with me? Let’s do this, friends!
SIX WAYS TO BE LIGHT IN A DARK WORLD
Spend time with Jesus – Be in the Word
Here’s something I recently learned: Let’s say that you’re being interviewed by a police sketch artist because you have reported seeing a robbery. The only problem is that you made up the entire story – maybe a robbery did occur, but you were not an actual witness, so you have no suspect to describe. You’re now in the position to make up a description of a person that you have never seen and do not know. Do you know what people in this situation are inclined to do? They subconsciously give a description of their own face.* In other words, if we try to describe someone we’ve never seen and we do not know, we end up giving a description of ourselves.
Similarly, if we do not know Jesus – if we are not in the Word, pursuing Him, learning about Him, being with Him – then we will not be able to point to Him. We will end up pointing to ourselves or maybe to a vague idea of goodness, but not to the One True God. We have to prioritize time in the Word. I know it can be challenging in some seasons of life, but we must press in and find any way that we can to fill our minds with Truth.
When we have been with Jesus, people notice. In Acts 4, after Peter and John speak before the Sanhedrin, it says that “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (v 13) Oh how I desperately want this to be true of me as well, and my guess is that you do also. Let’s prioritize time with our Savior so that we can reflect Him to others.
Commit to a Church Community
We aren’t meant to walk our faith journey alone. When we commit to a church community, our friendships become an outward reflection of the Gospel to a dark world. I remember that, after having my first baby, more than one person commented on how incredibly kind it was that my friends brought me meals. For two months. And then again for two weeks when I returned to work. Yes, the church is imperfect. It is made up of imperfect people like us, after all. It is also a powerful fellowship that brings light into darkness. Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35 NIV) Let’s commit to one another in love, friendship, and service. It shouts Jesus to a watching world.
Pray for Others
When you pray for someone, you become a blessing to them, whether or not they ever know it. As I’ve said in a previous post, I will not pretend to be a theological expert on prayer, but I do know that it changes things. I’ve seen it’s power in my own life and in the lives of those close to me. Jesus thought it necessary to pray, and so should we. If you aren’t sure where to begin, start by praying Scripture for others. One scripture you can pray is:
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:17-19a NIV)
Ask Better Questions
Being an exceptional question asker comes naturally to some. Perhaps you’ve met someone like this before? I have one friend in particular who is phenomenal at posing meaningful questions that allow her to get to know someone on a deeper level. Jesus was a question asker as well. It’s a powerful tool that shows others we are interested in them and also allows them to come to their own conclusions in a way that they may not otherwise.
While it’s certainly important to learn to ask better questions of others, we can also hone that skill with ourselves. As we catch ourselves thinking things such as, “What will others think of me?” or “How can I get the most out of this experience or friendship?”, let’s rewire our thoughts to sound more like, “What will others think of Jesus?” and “How can I serve this school/organization/person?”. These are simple ways to remove our focus from ourselves and instead be reminded of our greater purpose in the seemingly mundane and regular moments of life. Every interaction we have has eternal significance.
Be Careful with Words
Okay, I hesitate to even write on this because honestly, this may be my biggest area of struggle. I am careless with my words at times, to my enormous shame. Careless with my words about myself, situations, and others. However, I truly believe that there is incredible impact waiting on the other side of loving, affirming, encouraging, grateful, and benefit-giving words. The Bible speaks powerfully about this topic and does not give us room to question the heart of God on this subject:
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” (Jesus, Matthew 12:36 NIV)
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? (James 3:1-11, NIV)
Reading these verses makes my heart sink and cry out to Jesus for mercy. Thank you, Lord for grace! Friends, as we seek to be light in a dark world, our words will set us apart. Are we complaining or thanking, judging or loving, assuming the worst or giving the benefit of the doubt? We do not know what is going on in someone’s life that is causing them to behave a certain way toward us. We don’t need to know. We do need to pray for the grace to control our thoughts and words about and toward them. When we are able to do this, people will see Jesus. Lord, help us! Lord, help me!
Be Genuine, Be Intentional
People are not projects. People are people made in the image of God who have as great of a need for relationship as we do. As much as we may be attempting to love and serve others, we will often find that when we are genuine and intentional, we also gain from the relationship as well. Operating from a place of genuineness and intentionality requires having our self-identity roots deeply dug in the firm soil of Scripture. Any time that we attempt to build a friendship with someone, we risk rejection. It’s okay. We can handle it because we have One who will never reject us. After all, to quote one of my favorite articles, you can’t be everyone’s Chick-fil-a sauce! What we can be is real, honest, loving, and intentional.
There are so many examples of Jesus doing this – the woman at the well (John 4:4-26), Jesus at the pool (John 5:1-15), Jesus calling Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), to name a few. I encourage you to read these stories and see how Jesus intentionally went out of his way to encounter people, and then lovingly and sincerely invited them into His life as He cared for their needs. This is powerful and brings change to a world that can often be superficial.
We have a high calling as Christians, to be sure. But we also have a magnificent Savior who goes with us each step of the way. I pray that we are able to reflect His light and truth to those around us as we build relationships with them. (Also, as a side-note, everyone at preschool was perfectly lovely and welcoming. See how our fears are so often unfounded? Someone remind me of that in a month or so!) Love to you, friends!
*Deadly Wives, Season 1, Episode 7 on Investigation Discovery (ID) Channel
**Amy Weatherly, Her View From Home, https://herviewfromhome.com/i-cant-be-everyones-chick-fil-a-sauce/