The Flashlight of God
I am a big fan of preparation. When I was younger, I used to procrastinate. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because I wanted things that I did to be “perfect” and so whatever task I faced seemed intimidating. Perhaps you know what that feels like. But through the years of various work experiences and child-rearing, I learned how much better it felt to tackle things quickly, to break larger tasks down into smaller jobs in order to get things done, and to allow for “good enough” instead of “perfect.” Even though life brings unexpected events that require thinking-on-the-spot, the more prepared we are for other aspects of our lives, the better and more calmly we can respond to surprises.
Sometimes life is just really full, though, isn’t it? We pass through weeks and months when there is so much to do, that we struggle to meet all the demands we face. Even with our best efforts, we may come up short and find ourselves with little time to prepare for something important. I’ve found in those moments, that if I’ve been faithful with my time to the best of my ability, God is faithful to meet me with help in those moments of need, if I ask. God sometimes surprises me with moments of unusual clarity and unexpected assistance when I am forced to work “on the fly.”
One of the most memorable children’s sermons I ever heard was one that was created “on the fly.” It was given by a busy college student who had responsibility for the children’s sermon one morning at a church I served, and who had not had time to prepare. He came to church that morning without any ideas. I don’t recommend being in this position! Being habitually unprepared for important responsibilities is not honoring to God or to those we serve. But in this case, it was an emergency. He asked God for help. Then he took a piece of paper, drew a large stick man, and grabbed a flashlight.
When the children gathered at the front of the church, he talked to them about the light of God that comes to us through Jesus Christ. He held up the picture of the stick man on the piece of paper and said, “This is me.” Then he switched on the flashlight behind the paper, so that the light shone through the stick man. He said, “This is the light of God in me.” It was brilliant, and the kids got it. So did the grown-ups. He turned off the flashlight and said, “Without Jesus, there’s no light in me.” Then he turned the flashlight back on and said, “With Jesus, there’s light in me that shines on others.”
I’ve never forgotten that children’s sermon. Sometimes when life and faith seem complicated and difficult, I remember that simple message, and I ask myself, “Is my flashlight on?” Of course, if the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us, then the “flashlight” is always “on.” But we often block the light by our attitudes or our behavior, particularly during times of stress. We need to ask, in the midst of the planning and the doing of busy times, “Can people see the light of God shining through me?” If they can’t, then how can I clear the way? It may be as simple as showing grace to a spouse or a child or a parent, or extending kindness to a harried store clerk, or even just stopping to appreciate what’s right in front of us at that moment.
As we enter this Advent season, I hope you will pause from time to time to ask yourself, “Is my flashlight on?” “Can people see the light of God shining through me?” Then let God help you clear the way for His light. You may be surprised at what He will do.
With prayers for your journey,