On an airplane ride home for Christmas break, I was reminded of the importance that each person has, not only individually, but also as a group that joins together to impact the world. It brought new meaning to Jesus’ command to “Let your light shine before men” (Matthew 5:16). It pushed me to rekindle my beacon of shining light.
I want to encourage you, dear reader, to let it do the same for you.
Sitting on that airplane, surrounded by a noise that hovers between a hum and a roar, and soaring some 10,000 to 15,000 feet above the ground is something I don’t get to do very often. Even more rare is a flight at night; so rare that I didn’t remember how magical it could be.
As we took off, I peered out the window. First the lights flashed by slowly, and then with increasing speed.
We lifted off the ground, and the landscape of Tulsa, Okla. materialized in the darkness. Houses and businesses were followed by neighborhoods, parts of town and eventually whole cities. I could see Christmas lights on the houses.
The speed was exhilarating, the perspective was novel and the twinkling lights were gorgeous.
The sheer magnitude of the world was overwhelming and I began to reflect on how small I am. I was one little girl sitting on an airplane full of hundreds of people headed to St. Louis and beyond. I am only one. How much can I do in a sea of people? I just blend in. Each person on this one plane had his or her own stresses, joys, frustrations, journeys and adventures ahead.
I looked ahead at the light reflecting off the pages of the book and onto the face of the woman behind me. Beside me, a man’s face glowed from the light of his iPhone. The dim lights illuminated the exhaustion, burdens, boredom and anticipation in each passenger’s face.
Below on the ground, each light also represented a human, a family, a business, a destination. Porch-lights cast a pool of light in front of houses. Brightly colored signs indicated businesses, and I chuckled that I could pick out a Walgreens from hundreds of feet in the air. Headlights and streetlights enabled countless people to navigate their ways through the evening traffic. If one of the many people looked up, they might notice the blinking red and white lights or sense the roar of a Southwest airplane.
The lights on the ground and in the air reminded me of the candlelight service at John Brown University during the Christmas season. While one candle or bulb may seem insignificant, when that bulb is combined with hundreds or thousands of others, it is remarkable how bright a light those combined flickers can produce.
This multiplying effect became even more evident to me later that night when I saw the city lights of St. Louis and Chicago. Each was a successively larger city than Tulsa, and the combined power of all the city lights was definitely noticeable. I could see St. Louis’ lights through the clouds that blanketed the sky during out decent. Their intensity created dim, orange blotches across the gray-covered sky below. Later, as we took off from Chicago, the rows and squares of lights seemed to go on forever. What power those little lights had! They lit up the whole night sky.
According to Jesus in Matthew 5:16, you and I are like little lights, too. We are dim when isolated by ourselves. But when combined with many, many other lights, we have great power. Not only are we powerful, but we are gorgeous. We are beautiful and mighty.
Reader, it is hard to be a light burning by oneself. Whether you’re travelling home to be with family, hanging out with friends, working on homework, going on a missions trip or walking down your dormitory hallway, I encourage you to see each moment as an opportunity. You may be surrounded by other beacons of faith when you’re in places such as the beloved JBU bubble. Or you may be lonely, shining by yourself in a dark world.
Whatever the case may be, I encourage you to burn brightly. Be a beacon, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden, a lamp on a stand or a light seen from thousands of feet above the ground.
Yes. Shine. Shine brightly.