“To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your path, and don’t worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest.” – Ralph Waldo Emmerson
I lashed out again.
I hurt a friendship again.
I fell again.
It’s the word “again” which gives me the most anxiety. “Again, I did….” How many more times will this happen? How many times will I have to go to that person to ask for forgiveness? How many times will I have to go to God for forgiveness? How many times will I disappoint God and others?
How many more times will I fall? When will be the time I do not get back up again?
Ashamed of who I am, I would rather bury the light of Christ in me than anyone to ever think I am a Christian. Why? Because, it happened again. Why? Because, I’m not like that Christian over there.
How do I shine after the “again”?
The Command I Conceal
Jesus calls me the light of the world. Not only is he the light of the world (John 8:12), but he calls me the the light of the world as well. Not only that, he says to let my light shine and be seen, so others can praise God.
What a heavy burden. I thought Christ’s burden was easy and his yoke was light (Matthew 11:30). When the “again” happens, I feel the weight of this command. I want to conceal it. I can’t put my light out there for all to see. Not only will it light up their darkness, but it will expose mine.
My life isn’t perfect. There are other Christians better suited at shining their light. Instead, I can be a cheerleader for them, right? Unfortunately, through the shame over my “agains,” Jesus still commands me to shine.
Jesus did not die for me and give me a new life in order for me to hide it away even when there is still darkness.
Transforming Thoughts on Darkness
My mind always wants to say, “But, look at all the darkness in my life.” I know it is there, there are plenty of others who know it is there, and God definitely knows it is there. Just look at the bridges I have burnt. There is more light on the flames of my burnt bridges than the light inside me.
Yet, I forget something. With Christ, even with each struggle, stumble, and fall, he is the light inside me. It’s not me.
In I Timothy 1:13-14, Paul reveals that he all the darkness in him. However, Paul did not see it as his effort to keep his light going, because his light did not come from him. Instead, it came from God filling him with faith and love. The light that I am ashamed to shine is from Christ. If he can work through Paul, can he not work through me? I get caught up in my “agains” so many times that I forget to see God’s “not yets.” God, through the Holy Spirit, is working on me each step of the way. Not only that, but he promised he will continue his work in me until it is finished (Philippians 1:6).
God knows I am imperfect, and I need a perfect savior. Good thing it is not me. So many times I get caught up, after salvation, trying to be the savior of my own thoughts and action. I never allow the Spirit to work. I may become an expert in killing sin, but in reality I end up killing grace. I need to learn to let the Spirit lead me. I need to submit to his leading each day and each moment. If all I do is worry about what sin isn’t conquered, or the next “again,” then I am still living a slave to sin and not as a son to the Spirit.
The Again’s Aftershock
Recently, I lashed out… again. I said a snarky comment… with many agains. The depression resulting from an “again” is a miserable place to be. All I could see in me is a monster which could not be stopped. Is this all I was? Am I predestined to be a monster? (Breathe Calvinists. Yes, I said your trigger word.)
With these thoughts, I can turn to beating myself up. I can focus on how many people are winning the “spiritual bet” on my life with how long it was in between each blow up or lash out. These thoughts can make me hate myself in ways I was never meant to.
In Psalm 37:23-24, I am told God delights in every detail of my life. When I see a fail, he sees a time to get back up. I want to say, “God, I failed again.” God holds my hand gently saying, “Stephen, it is time to get back up, again.” So often, I judge myself by how many times I lash out again or blow up again. Yet, I hardly look at how many times I get back up again. As long as I put my hope in the Lord, I will continue to travel steadily down his path; even if my feet stumble (Psalm 37:34).
I fell again. I remember the last time I lashed out. I shake my head in shame. I think about the next time I am in church. Should I even go? Can I even sing? Won’t most people see me as a hypocrite?
Interestingly, those questions focus on my works not on the forgiveness Christ has given me. Proverbs 17:9 gives me the key to move forward. Love prospers when Christ has forgiven me. If I keep dwelling on my “agains,” then I am only walking away from that relationship with Christ. It is when I bask in Christ’s love for me that I begin to prosper and shine again. (This verse can apply to all relationships)
If my focus is on my “agains,” then no one will see the work of Christ that the Holy Spirit is working on. If I focus on the love of Christ and his forgiveness, then I can sing in church, raise my hands, and shine. Even if my light exposes my darkness, I still have the light.
There are a few friends I have who I have lashed out and hurt multiple times. Yet, with a huge hug, they forgive me and say, “I love you. I am so proud of you.” They understand how the Holy Spirit works, and celebrate when those works are seen. When I, again, stumble, they are the quickest hands to help me up. Through their example, I have learned to keep going and to forgive myself. Without them, I would have quit a long time ago. The only writing anyone would have seen would’ve been on a gravestone.
There are days I feel too ashamed to shine and let my light shine. I look at how I failed and fell again, and the shame snuffs out my light. Thank God, it is not my light. It is the light of Christ. Each day is a reminder I can get up again and keep going again. People can judge me by my past (even recent past). But, if I use their shame to keep me from shining, then I live in the darkness of my “agains.”
If I allow Jesus’ “agains” to inspire the next steps, then I can shine without shame.