Why is it that humans love light filtering through the trees? And Instagram pictures with the beam of sunshine? And houses with lots of windows to let in “natural light”? We need the sun. We crave the light. Our bodies need it to create vitamin D, release serotonin and other helpful stuff.
I don’t know about your day, but mine needed a little extra light to sweep away some lingering emotional shadows. So I came home from work and started reading North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell where I found this odd little French phrase, “Parler du soleil et l’on en voit les rayons,” which a footnote translated as, “Speak of the sun and you will see its beams.” For some reason, I could not get this idea out of my mind. I realized the truth in this saying. Often in my life, situations seem dark and bleak until I think of something bright and cheery. Focusing on a source of light or hope helps to amplify it. For me, focusing on God takes away my darkness and helps me to see the world in a more hopeful light (pun intended).
So let me tell you a story that has some sunshine and maybe it will brighten your day:
In my classroom on Friday morning before first period, I felt a Tender Tug to pray for my students. Not just a “I hope their aunt gets over her cold” type of prayer but a “May they walk in freedom from the chains of sin and darkness” type of prayer. While praying, I thought about several specific students and realized that all of them needed the same thing: to be SEEN and to be VALUED. I felt so impacted by this that the Spirit led me to talk about it in a few of my classes that day.
This is where it gets exciting. Third period. Spanish 1. Ninth and eleventh graders.
I told them I had prayed for them. Heads snapped up from staring at their eraser giblets. I told them that they were not invisible. I told them that God always sees them, even when they hide. I told them that I noticed them. Fifteen and seventeen year olds watched me like I was the new Taylor Swift music video. I told them that God loved them no matter what they did and that He thought they were important and valuable. Some kids got uncomfortable and looked away.
I finished my soap box and moved on with teaching “gustar” because I falsely assumed God was done.
As I was walking around, a fifteen year old girl asked me if she could talk to me after school. I agreed and eagerly wondered what was so important that she would want to stay late. (We’ll get back to her in a second.)
At the end of class, a seventeen year old football player who is at least six inches taller than me pointed to a basket that I call my “mailbox” and whispered, “Ms. Stovall, you’ve got mail.” I smiled and nodded that I would get it. At which point, I immediately forgot. He came back during my planning period and asked if I had read his note yet to which I meekly replied, “No… but I will!” He left, and I opened his carefully folded note. Words like, “invisible”, “unappreciated”, and “lonely” stood out from his honest and miserable sentences. I was shocked. How could this boy, who seemingly had a great life, feel that way? Somehow my moment of eye-to-eye encouragement with the class had prompted him to vulnerably share his depression.
After reading his note twice, I took a deep breath, reached for a pen, and asked God to give me some words. I wrote some things about how I had struggled with feeling invisible, unappreciated, and lonely. I wrote Bible verses. I wrote whatever I felt the Spirit lead me to say. I gave him the note as he left school, and I honestly do not know if it helped. However, the point of this story is not that something unbelievable happened. Instead, the point is that just sharing God’s light helps others even if it just helps them to not feel so alone and dark.
Now, back to the best part of my story. The girl. I have never taught her before and have only really known her for five weeks of school. But somehow, someway, when I had my soapbox moment in class, she decided to trust me. She shared with me some very personal details about her past and how it had changed how she categorized her sexuality.
Another deep breath.
They do not train you for that in teacher education classes. But here this girl was, standing in front of me, timidly crossing her arms. She asked me if God would still love her. She asked me if she would go to hell.
Y’all. My eyes tear up just thinking about it.
I wanted to give her a hug and save her from all of the pain in her past. But at the same time, I knew I had to be honest with her.
I told her my beliefs based on my interpretation of the Bible: God does not send you to hell because of a certain sin. We go to hell because we do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. God does not love you any less because of what you have done in your past. We all sin, but that does not make us unforgivable. In love, I flat out told her that I believed homosexuality is a sin. But for some reason she did not run away. She said she felt better now that she had told someone. We talked about other things going on in her life, but we kept circling back to the fact that God always loves us and always forgives us.
Again, I’m not sure how much my words helped her, but I do know one thing: God is love. God is light. God is hope. God is forgiveness. God is everything good. If you needed to hear this today, know that God is LIGHT. Let Him shine past your depressing darkness or your murky questions. If your life feels a little dark, “Speak of the sun [God] and you will see its beams [hope].”
Or maybe everything is rainbows and butterflies in your life. Maybe you need to share some light with those around you. Matthew 5:16 reminds us, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
If you are in the black out of an eclipse or being blinded by the extra glare of the sun, let God be the light and let Him cast out the darkness.