The background of a particular subject greatly affects our ability to perceive it with clarity.
A cluster of garden blooms set together causes separate petals and stems to become nearly indistinguishable from the rest. Arrangements composed of the same variety fuse into one larger subject. But set a few isolated flowers against distinctively different colours and shapes and they are revealed for what they individually are.
Times of dark difficulties don’t so much create a character as expose the one already there. They set us apart and shine a spotlight on our response to adversity. As dusty green leaves chart and display the progress of vivid blooms, so the background of musty sentiments thrown our way or hurtful resentments paying attention to any perceived slip helps us see ourselves as we really are.
To grow in Christ we need to truly know how dire circumstances or even a tireless parade of good things demanding our efforts affects our ability to live at peace and exude the fragrant aroma of his love at all times. And so, we learn to welcome these times as a tending of his grace, an invitation to be cut off from old self illusions formed throughout the years to be re-formed more clearly in his likeness if we stop to truly see what he shows us against the realities of the world in which we serve as his.
We see this unveiling when situations demand that our voice be counted should complicated decisions need to be made; when tension is rank from the dank earth of competing ideals. What will we do? A cloistered reaction connects the dots of a common desire to maintain the status quo and keeps us hidden from ourselves and others, but boisterously clear differentiation defined by his living word to be living sacrifices of worship sets us apart.
Will we array the Spirit’s presence arranging our hearts with a counter cultural model of gentle kindness against all human odds? The sunlight of his love gives us the courage.
We see this recovery of authentic disclosure when contrasting motivations extricate themselves from the appearance of unity and declare a truer representation of our genuine state of mind and heart. How will we present ourselves? The noise of inner conflict rejects the jots and tittles of his path to wholeness in the journey to our true selves in him, but joy follows when we do.
Will we display a choice to let the petulance of others drip off petals of peace blooming in him? Unlit retribution will encourage us to let him make the judgement calls knowing that both dark and light are not only found around us, but also within us.
The appearance of our true colours against shades which fall somewhere along the spectrum of clashing expectations becomes visible for all to see. What will show when complimentary positions grow up side by side; when contrasting hopes prop themselves around us; when secondary or tertiary colours of compromise challenge our primary call to live as Jesus lived no matter what?
He was constantly standing out from the crowd. Speaking with gracious authority and acceptance where religious leaders only spoke with audacious pomp and judgement. Going to places his detractors despised where he touched the darkness of lepers, prostitutes, the ‘other’, and showed the faithful compassion of a God who grafts us into the garden of new life defined by Christ through faith.
To stand out in this way may attract the darkened stare of those who do not wish their deeds to be exposed. We may wither in the heat of their glare. We may wilt in the barely tolerable attempts to discard the bloom of Christ in us which shows up blackened areas lurking in the background.
“For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3: 20-21)
And again Jesus tells us, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
It is here a suffering love like his can be discerned and point the way of hope.
May we be washed again in his love so we will dare to stand out in his peace.
‘Lord, for each one standing out from the crowd, shining for you in a dark place, growing against the background of deeply divided and contrasting opinions, provide refreshing wells of your love to be received through roots of determination to be counted as yours, growing in grace wherever you plant us.
If wilting, tilt your hand of supporting strength to lift each face toward you so we may be revived to behold your glory. May we not retreat to blending in and let your light be dimmed … but bloom wholeheartedly for you. Amen.”