Yesterday morning we had something called Celebration Sunday! We were recognizing all of our church family who have been saved and baptized in our constantly growing little community church. As I was looking on, I could see that almost all of the people who had been baptized were wearing the same bright blue shirt. Each of them carried the same message on the front; 'I Took the Plunge'. As I was taking pictures of the group standing in front of the congregation, God gave me a cool illustration. In the fictional story below, all of those in the blue shirts are going to represent the saved. We are also going to pretend that those that did not have the blue shirts on...represent the unsaved. I'm choosing to write it from the perspective do someone who is lost(unsaved).
The alarm goes off and I wake up. Another monotonous day, sigh, more problems to face. I dress myself all in black because I have little happiness these days. I have nothing to look forward to and everything to fear. I wonder, 'Is this really how everyone feels? Am I missing something?'
I arrive to work and begin the process of waiting for the time that I can leave. I hate being here and I want it to show. I set my stuff down at my station and look up. Here comes the new guy. And WHY is he smiling? What could he possibly have to be happy about this early on a Monday morning. The guy is dressed down like the rest of us but his shirt...it's so bright. Everyone else at work is dressed all in dark, drab colors. It is almost as if our clothes represent our mood. Cold and dark. I find myself annoyed as he walks toward me. I can't handle being/seeing 'chipper' and 'fake' this early on a Monday. I look down as he walks by...hoping he will get the hint.
His feet stop right in front of mine. I can now see his hand stretched out in front of me. I, unwillingly, look up with a face void of expression and shake his hand. For just a moment I feel a warmth radiate through my body. This man's face is kind and gentle. His voice is calming and somehow reassuring. I quickly pull my hand away and cold resumes. I have no idea what he said...I was too distracted. I just knew that it.was.weird.
At lunch I kept my eye on him. In fact, for the next few weeks I did nothing but study him while we worked. I was waiting for the day that he came to work, dark, broken and bitter like the rest of us. It had to come, right? Isn't that what is inevitable in this world? Wait, what is that I just saw? One of my co-workers. The man that works right beside the new guy...now he has the same shirt. His face and his countenance seem different. He seems so...happy. What happened?! We all work the same job, what do they have to be happy about? Instead of asking...I just continue watching. From a distance, hopefully unnoticed, but I am sure watching!
A month or so goes by and I still can't get that first handshake out of my mind. As I mindlessly work I feel a tap on my shoulder. It is my boss telling me that I have a phone call. Instant panic its me like a bus. My gut tells me I don't want to hear what I am about to. My body is numb and drenched with fear as I walk toward the hall phone. It is a familiar voice, but one I had chosen not to hear for a while. I only heard the first few words that came from my mother's mouth. 'Your father is very sick. If you want to see him...today is the day.' I remember the last fight I had with him. And I remember the awful things that I said as I stormed out. I couldn't face him again...
I remember little of how I got to where I now found myself next. I do not remember hanging up the phone or walking. But here I was with tear-filled eyes as I reached out to tap the shoulder of the new guy. I didn't know him in the slightest. I had only ever watched him from a distance. But something from within me was drawing me to him. Something told me that he could help. As he looked into my eyes, his eyes immediately filled with tears and his face showed his evident compassion. Right there, surrounded by a crowd of dark, I poured my heart out to this stranger.
Several times as I was talking I wondered 'Why am I still talking?!'...but, looking looking at the floor, still I continued. As I finished, he began. He was talking, but his eyes were closed. His hand was on my shoulder and I felt that same warmth I had felt before. He wasn't talking to me at all. He was talking to God about me. I remembered praying with my parents when I was little, so I closed my eyes. My heart felt like it hung on his every word. I clung to them as if my life depended on it. He was praying for my last conversation with my dad. He was praying things that I didn't feel...but that I desperately wanted to. Love. Forgiveness. Joy. Restoration. Peace. A new life.
Just before we parted ways he extended an invitation. Church. Ugh...he was inviting me to church. For some reason, that felt out of my rational control, I agreed. I walked away confused, but a little bit lighter. I didn't feel so lost and dark...and I figured anything was worth a try at this point. In the days leading up to the next Sunday I started to look around as I walked. There it was again and again. That same blue, followed by the same kind smile. It was as if people were being changed. It wasn't just about the color. That was what first caught my eye...but it was far more than that. Something within these people was different than what I had.
Here it was. Sunday. Anxiety almost got the best of me. I thought about going back home, but I was already in the parking lot. I hesitated just a few minutes. I decided to go in late so that I could avoid feeling awkward. They were having some sort of celebration that day. I heard name after name of people coming forward. There was that blue. There was that countenance that I kept seeing. They were all gathered together, proclaiming that they would never be the same. They were making a public statement in hopes that people would keep them accountable? After all of the clapping stopped the people returned to their seats.
If we could see each other from the heavenly realm, rather than from our earthly view; I wonder if we each radiate a color? I wonder also if the color could change depending on...our mood. Our faith. Our strength. Our mouth. Our thoughts. Our actions. Our circumstance.
If the darkest colors of the rainbow represented our lives without Christ...and red was an indicator that we were clearly on fire for Him...where would you rate yourself? Not just right this second...but when you first wake up. When you rush around to get out of the house on time. When you see someone you are uncomfortable with. When you are on a mission in Wal-mart and a stranger interrupts and asks you for a favor. When your husband leaves his clothes on the bathroom floor. Lol! (Where did that one come from?!) When someone attacks your character. When someone gossips. When someone hurts your child. When someone proves themselves to be two-faced.
I think this survey is worthy of asking yourself...but I would also encourage you to ask a few people that you confide in. Rate each other. Do not be malicious...but do be honest. If the vibe you are sending is cold and demeaning...wouldn't you want to know? Those feelings that people get when they first see you can help or hurt your witness. Who wants to have Jesus so they can STILL be miserable and void of joy? I can assure you...no one!
If you are on fire though...why and how? What did you have to go through to get to be that red hot mama? ;-) Why is it so important that you commit to staying that way? Because people are watching! Some with a microscope. Some with binoculars. Some want to be sure they go over you with a metal detector, a fine tooth comb and a little 'religious condemnation' if needed. Others will not get that close to what they don't understand. They will only watch from a distance. Far enough to go unnoticed...but close enough to see. Either way though...when they come to a place where they are out of options; they will know to whom they can turn. They will have seen you be tested and come out stronger. They will see that your color of faith did not fade. It did not waver under pressure. It did change shades, but not how the enemy expected it to. It became even more vibrant and beautiful!
And when those who have been watching you come...you will welcome them with a heart of compassion. You will pray and rejoice with them, because that is the heart that strives to be like Jesus. Your color does not go unnoticed. Your passion is seen and heard. And when people come to their appointed time of a new beginning...they will reach out to someone who has been standing solid and firm within their view. They will spill their life into your path in hopes that they will be like those who are forever changed.
My crowd at work is FULL of color now. I could.not.would.not.shut.up about how that day at church changed me. To be among people of influence with The Answer to joy and life everlasting was what first inspired me. I now boldly proclaim why I have joy. I live what I know to the best of my ability because I see those without hope. I see them watching. And I can't wait for the day that I see them walking lighter and looking more like Jesus. I am redeemed. I am free. I am a blue-shirt wearin' fool...because I now understand the cost. The cross gives me hope and every reason to live like I have something to celebrate.
What about you? In these last 30 days...how has God revealed your true color to you? If you aren't where you thought you were...or are not where you want to be...what will you do? Today I would love for you to pray about finding a partner to war with you. Find a confidant to help you discern. Find a fellow Christian who will commit to pray for you to have contagious joy. Bold faith. Extravagant generosity. Complete humility. And passionate convictions.
And I, my friends, I pray for new ministry opportunities for you all. I want this world, your household, your workplace, your communities to be set ablaze. I want the many traits of Christ to be evident and free flowing! I'm praying for you because my ministry has me right smack in the middle of it all. I see lost. I see broken. I see deceived. But I believe for faith, restoration and healing to come soon. I proclaim it!
I LOVE YOU ALL! Thank you for your support during this challenge. I definitely picked the right word. Thirty day CHALLENGE! Wowza! Oh, there were trials. There were bumps. There were bruises. The enemy tried hard to quiet my voice...but I will not be silenced. Will you?!