Well it all started with cancelled plans with Liz and Rachel. Little did they know that they played a huge role in tonight's teaching from the Lord. We were supposed to go out to dinner and last minute, Liz texted me and said that she had to go home today instead of later this week, so we would be unable to get together for dinner with the three of us. Now, with my whole night now wide open, I of course went for a long run in the unbearable 98 degree humid weather here in Herndon (I do NOT know WHAT I was thinking!), and then showered, pulled my hair back in a wet braid, threw on a light sweater and running shorts, grabbed my belongings, and went on a simple adventure to starbucks to read a book. (or so i thought it would just be a simple adventure.)
I pulled up to Starbucks, ordered my usual 'hot chai tea latte', and sat down to enjoy a relaxing night in a coffee shop. :)
That is where it all began.
After about 15 minutes of just thinking and sipping, a group of 7 or 8 young teens came busting through the doors, so rudely interrupting my thoughts and gentle night in a coffee shop. I hurriedly put my headphones in my ear and found a good song on youtube to play to drown them out. But as I sat there trying to concentrate on journaling a little, I looked over at these young teens. I began to watch them and just listen to their conversations. Then, I began to look ALL around me. I saw two women who were Indian and they resembled some of the women I encountered and built relationships across the world with in India. Then I looked behind me and saw two young men working behind the counter of starbucks talking about their DUI's from the weekend and their 'immoral' plans for the night, (I can be so quick to judge.) At that moment, I found myself sitting not just in a coffee shop anymore, but in a dark, cold, room filled with ALL ages of men and women, boys and girls, who had no hope or idea of what Jesus had done for them. I was overwhelmed of my ignorance to this as I sat trying to journal. (Which was failing miserably)
I was watching these people go about their lives in darkness, and I was completely surrounded by it.
For some reason, at that moment, I opened a word document on my laptop in a folder entitled 'Personal' and found a journal prayer I had written last summer in Colorado. It had nothing to do with what I was thinking in that moment, except for the verse that I found in this entry. I had written about Romans 12:9-21, and it says
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary, 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
As I read this, I found myself so convicted of the way I view people. A lot of times, I look at people and can 'hate' them because of the sin in their lives; this is NOT okay! I should be hating the SIN, and loving the PERSON...I have it all backwards sometimes. I am a sinner myself; always have, always will...but I should never contain the fact that I have hope, grace, and love from and because of Christ. Who am I to receive grace, hope, and love from Christ, and not share and give it to others. What pride! I realized that I am in a very dark place here in Herndon, but there is light that I can choose to simply 'let' shine. If I claim to be a Christian, the light of Jesus will shine, but I have the choice to let it shine not just in the places where light already penetrates, but where the darkness of clouds cover. I found myself wanting that; to just LET my light shine here in Herndon...I only have 6 short weeks left...and I am sitting in darkness with my headphones stuffed in my ears, ignorant to the power I have with Christ living inside of me to just LET the light of Christ shine to these people.
Matthew 5:14-16 says "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, LET your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
It says 'let'...not try hard. If we allow Christ to shine through us, it will be bright and unmistakable, but I think sometimes we TRY to hide it, myself included. We are afraid of the thoughts of others. WHO CARES...I am sick of caring! Whew, I am glad I wrote that out, because maybe having a big 'WHO CARES' in writing on the internet will help me live by it more. Who cares. All that matters is Gods thoughts...and when we let and allow Christ to shine through us, His thoughts are shown by the smile on His face as He looks down from heaven. :)
This is my challenge to myself now: go into coffee shops, grocery stores, libraries, running clubs...anywhere I find myself, and just 'let' my light shine. Forget fear of people. I want to bow in fear and reverence of God and let His glory pour onto me so that I may shine, and even when I sit in the darkest of places, I will illuminate any room...not by my power, but by Christ inside. I do NOT want to be blinded by the sin of other people (and my own sin) so much, that I hate that person instead of hating that sin. We are to love people and hate the sin that they are entangled by. We as Christians were ALL once entangled by sin, but we now have FREEDOM! What a glorious day!
As I was driving back to my host families home here in Northern Virginia, the Lord again reminded me that I am surrounded by darkness as the clouds rolled up and the sky began to rain down the floodgates! I have never seen the sky soo dark and threatening.
All we have is today. Yesterday is just a page turned in the story of our lives written by God. We can look back, but we cannot change it. I want to learn from these 'yesterdays' and 'yester-moments' even where I missed opportunities to shine so that when they come again and I am faced with the choice to 'let' my light shine, I will!
Thanks for a WONDERFUL night with you God. You are too sweet to me!