In the high desert of sagebrush and wildflowers in south central Washington, one can trace the course of the sun from sunrise to sunset. From my living room window, I can see this journey as the sun performs its faithful task each morning sending anticipated rays of light over the eastern hills, breaking into darkness to declare a new day has begun. Through the course of the morning, making coffee, sending the dogs outside, lighting a candle, putting on Appalachian hymns, waking kids for school, and preparing breakfast, the view of the sun continues its ordained course over the Ahtanum Ridge to the south. Once the sun is high enough, I don’t pay much attention to its position as I hustle to and fro throughout the day. So high above little me is this hydrogen and helium star that bathes the landscape in unabashed light.
As the sun dances across the ever-blue skies, shadows appear. This is where the artistry of God is on display. He paints a new canvas with contours and contrasts, a living work of art in constant motion from dawn til dusk. You don’t want to go too long throughout the day without taking a peak out the window to see what He’s come up with next on the hillside canvas. Every morning, night is transfigured with brilliance, and the shadows are reshaped by light.
It is the same way in our lives; there are shadows of darkness, fear, and brokenness. But shadows inevitably prove there is a light shining somewhere. This is true in my own life.
When Shadows Come
My husband graduated from seminary in spring of 2018. Coming home to the Pacific Northwest was a dream come true. We visited family and settled into our temporary rental house where we would live while my husband completed a two-year church planting residency in Bellingham, Washington.
We had moved many times throughout our marriage. Someone once asked if we were in military service. I smiled and said, “No, we are in church service!” This was another necessary move in God’s plan. I was used to change, but I was not used to the physical effects that accompanied it. One can never get used to the unwanted experience of anxiety and depression. Immediately, the familiar feelings of being uprooted took hold. Panic attacks were constant companions, a thorn in my flesh for 30 years.
When we arrived back in Washington state after three years away at seminary, my doctor evaluated me for depression, and discovered that I was severely lacking in vitamin D. He prescribed an intensive supplement therapy as well as anti-depressants. Within two weeks, I could tell the treatment was working. The Lord was graciously restoring me. The light was breaking in. The shadows were shifting.
We were excited for a new chapter of life and eager to get back into full time church ministry. We anticipated a return to the rhythm of serving others. Prayerfully, I sought the Lord to discern where He would want me to serve during those two years before planting a church. Standing in my kitchen, ideas flooded my mind of what I could do for the Lord. And then came a thought that seemed to wrap gently around my eager self. It seemed that the Lord was leading me into a season of quiet. It seemed that the Lord was asking me to just be loved by Him. This thought made a deep impression on my heart. As I embraced this, the light continued to break into my darkness.
We moved to a new city in Washington state in the summer of 2020 to plant our church. Initially, this city wasn’t my first choice of where to plant. Daily headlines include gang violence, homicides, abuse, drive-by shootings, and drug busts. My friend recounted a story of when she had to retreat to her basement with her small children on the 4th of July to escape stray bullets being fired in their neighborhood under the cover of the sound of fireworks. During most Sunday services, there are police sirens heard from outside our church walls, including one arrest that was made within our church building after the morning service while half our church was still enjoying after-service fellowship.
The Light Always Breaks In
Jesus changes hearts. He gently changed mine. Like the careful hands of a potter working to form clay into something beautiful, He placed in me love for a city that He loves. The Lord provided a building for our church plant in the center of the city. God placed a resplendent beacon of light in the heart of a neighborhood I would never choose to frequent otherwise. Looking back, I distinctly see how God led us here. I can trace the light across the story’s horizon. I see how He trained and equipped us. His Word gave me vision to see how He reshapes broken things with His light. His inextinguishable light is my security, my bullet-proof vest of quietness and trust.
When you look at the shadows in your own life, do you run from them? Can you see Jesus running after you? He is pursuing you. There may be shadows so dark that you are barely making it through each day. Look up, daughter of grace, and take His faithful hand outstretched to you. Watch Him reshape those shadows by grace, by His Word, and by His presence with you in the deepest darkness. One day, He will write His name on your forehead, and wipe away those tears with His strong hand.
In the evening, after family dinner and chores, we settle down together in our cozy family room with cedar paneled walls, a dark stone fireplace, and three large windows that face the western hills. The sun slowly sets just between the volcanic peaks of Mt Adams and Mt Rainier. The Lord moves His brush strokes liberally across the sky with hues of pink and orange displayed just above the Pine and Cowiche Mountains, fading into a deep blue above as the star that illumined our day disappears for another night. This daily display in creation is a regular reminder of how God works in our lives. Yes, the shadows will arrive, but Christ will make even the shadows bow to His inescapable light.
“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).
Photo by Clint McKoy on Unsplash