These words terrify some, but to others they can be a lasting encouragement.
I work in an environment entirely different than the one I grew up in. I was raised in a Christian home and attended Christian schools until college. I went to a conservative state college, but immediately found the Christian crowd and was once again comfortable around like-minded people. I was exposed to the views and beliefs of the world, but I never really lived side-by-side with non-believers.
Coming out of college, I began work at a church. It seemed the natural thing to do, but God’s plan was different. He soon took me to the very place I promised I would never be. A public school.
What I have seen in my first year as a teacher has grown and stretched me more than ever. The reality of this world has been made evident. There is no hiding sin or vulgarity. Cursing is a normal form of speaking. Sex is spoken of or referenced on a daily basis. Jokes are full of innuendoes and gossip is equal to daily conversation. Sin is flaunted and considered humorous. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, but as one who was raised to watch what I say, see, hear, speak, and often seems to catch me off guard.
I have been labeled and teased for what my co-workers assume is naivete. I am the butt of many jokes and apologies. I have been offered ear muffs during “adult conversations.” Silence comes upon a conversation when I enter the room. And while it seems to be expected that these actions hurt me, I see God’s hand in it.
My whole life I never pictured myself in a public school. But God’s plan was bigger than mine.
This year I have wrestled with countless questions. What does it look like to be a Christian in this field? What does it look like to spread the Gospel in a place where such a thing is prohibited? How do you talk to people who have been inoculated to the Gospel? Am I really shining Christ’s light if all I see around me is darkness?
This struggle reached its height this month. Discouragement and confusion would not leave their position of knocking on my heart. Then came the words of a student in the middle of my lesson.
“Why are you so different from all the other teachers?”
Other students began to chime in, “Ya, you’re so nice and kind.” “You’re so different.” “Ya,why?” In the middle of my lesson, when I least expected it came an answer to the question that had weighed upon my heart for months.
“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory your Father in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16). His Light was shining through me even when I doubted it. Evident enough that a young boy would see it.
Different. Distinct. Separate.
These are the words that I have prayed to describe me. It is now that I realize, it isn’t about striving to be different. He showed me in that moment, that what made me different was just me being who God created and called me to be. Just me. I don’t have to even mention His name or tell them that I am a Christian. They saw the difference and asked me the reason. While I wished with everything in me to say, “Jesus. He is what makes me different,” I said, “I have been loved in such a way that causes me to want to share that love with others. If you want to talk about it more, I would love to answer any questions you might have after class or during free time.”
We are called to be different in this world. The very nature of believing and understanding the Gospel is to live a life that differs from the life of this world. Loving God looks like something. It looks different from the ways of this world. It is a difference that brings GLORY to a King, the King of Heaven.
The beauty of having the Holy Spirit live inside of you is that you don’t have to try to be different. It just happens. His Spirit changes who you are and shines out no matter how insignificant your actions may seem and no matter how many times you mess up. He is the difference that makes a difference.
I pray that we, as believers, are not afraid to be different. As a Christian you are called to stand out. Called to set yourself apart from the things of this world. It is a difference that costs much, but will be eternally worthwhile.
Wherever you are, the Lord wants to shine through your life. Sometimes we make the Gospel more complicated than it is. He says, let your light shine not “make your light shine.” It is simply allowing God to shine through you, not bottling up His love or promptings. Let him move you. Trust him to open doors and give you the words that will glorify him. He is faithful to his name. He doesn’t need us to defend him or fight for him. He just asks that we let the light shine.
You never know how brightly your light shines. As I’ve learned, do not doubt how much God can use you. Your light is evident. Bright enough to be seen by the simplest of children.
This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. Don’t let anyone blow it out. Don’t hide it under a bushel. I’m going to let it shine.
Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.