Let your light shine.
It sounds so poetic, doesn’t it?
I have been saying that phrase to my bigs ( ages 17 & 14) everyday before they go to school for at least 5 years.
“Bye kids! Have a great day! Let your light shine!”
At first, I was encouraging them to:
Do their best.
Use their gifts.
Be themselves, unashamedly.
All good stuff, right? There’s nothing wrong with any of those things.
But last year, let your light shine came to mean something a little different.
It became about faith.
As in, let your faith shine.
Unashamedly. In dark places (like school).
It meant bravery about showing others:
Your love for God.
Your servant heart.
Your love for everyone, even the bullies.
Your commitment to doing what is right, even if no one else does.
For one purpose only: that your light may illuminate the path so others may see Jesus.
For the last two years, on the way to school, the kids and I pray and ask God to send his Spirit to empower us to let our lights shine in the darkness. Not so that we can stand out, but so that others can be drawn to the saving love of Christ.
1 John 4:11-12 says, “Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us and his love is brought to full expression in us.”
If our love can show the Father’s love to a dark and lonely and watching world, then we want to let our lights shine.
It sounds like such a good plan, doesn’t it?
“Have a good day! Go Shine! Be a light in the dark!”
It sounds better than it executes.
The carryout of “let your light shine” is brutal.
I’ve watched it knock my kids down again and again.
I’ve listened and hugged and wiped tears and made cookies more times than I can count, all in an attempt to help heal what shining a light at school has broken.
Honestly, sometimes it feels yucky in my mom heart, sending my kids to school and encouraging them to shine when I know it means:
- Being nice to kids who ignore them in return. Or worse, call them names and tell them to go away.
- Trying hard and doing all the work when no one else puts forth effort.
- Serving the teacher and other students and getting mocked for it.
- Not getting included in get-togethers because screen time is limited and censored.
- Not fitting in because they don’t watch the same shows and movies and listen to the same music as all the other kids.
- Being the only one to show up at See You at the Pole and other christian clubs and events.
In other words, let your light shine is sometimes an invitation to loneliness, rejection and persecution. Just last week, my son came home from a sports practice where he had tried to be a servant by helping with equipment, giving his best effort, and encouraging his teammates (we are working on what it means to be a leader). In response, he was ignored, left out, and told to shut up by some of his teammates. He came home so dejected.
We had a good talk about continuing to shine in the dark, even when it’s difficult. We discussed how it’s not by our own power, but by the Spirit of God that we are empowered to accomplish this feat. We enforced that it’s necessary to keep shining. It was a teachable moment.
However, it broke my heart to see him struggle. It sounds horrible, but I wanted to go find those kids and punch them. Total mama bear moment. I didn’t, obviously, but I wanted to.
It’s painful to watch kids struggle. My own kids, especially. My instinct is to protect them.
But more than ever, I’m convinced it’s necessary that we train them to shine in the dark.
Because it’s only going to get worse.
My hubby and I decided a couple years ago that we need to have the mentality that we are raising warriors. The time is gone when one can assume that it is safe to follow Jesus. The time is here when people who hold tight to the christian faith and values will be at increasing odds with the majority of society.
And we need to be prepared.
2 Timothy 3:12 warns, “Yes, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
Everyone lives a godly life = everyone who lets their light shine.
Therefore, we must train our kids to be warriors of the faith; equipping them to fight the battle that is promised to come. What does that look like?
For us, it means we train our kids to pick up godly weapons, not worldly weapons, and fight.
Let me be clear that I AM NOT ADVOCATING THAT WE LITERALLY MAKE CHILDREN WARRIORS AND TEACH THEM TO FIGHT AND GIVE THEM WEAPONS TO DO SO.
But I do believe we need to train them spiritually for the battle that is promised in the future.
Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 6:6-10, “We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”
His words make it clear that the spiritual weapons our kids need are founded in love and righteousness.
What does that look like on a day-to-day basis? Practically, here’s what we are doing to help our kids develop those attributes and shine in the dark:
- Be In the Word. My kids read their bibles every morning before school. Their devotional time looks a little different than mine, but they each read a psalm and a proverb a day, and then do an entry from a devotional book that they are going through. There is no substitution for the power that the Word holds to keep kids grounded in truth and filled with life.
- Pray. Everyday on the way to school, we discuss their devotional time, take prayer requests, and then pray for the Spirit to come and empower them to accomplish his will. We also pray for specific people and situations that are troubling. Prayer trains them to ask God for help and rely on his strength.
- Encourage. I stick little notes with encouraging verses and phrases in their lunch boxes and backpacks. I send text messages with applicable bible verses in them when I know that they are facing a challenging situation. Truth helps lift the spirit like nothing else! They get big hugs when they get home and I make their fav treats too.
- Accountability: We talk about being light in the dark all.the.time. We discuss the struggles of it, different ways to handle it, and the importance of it. We make it a point to live out the principles of the Sermon on the Mount and turn the other cheek, love our enemies, and give to those in need. We talk about it so often, I’m sure my kids get sick of it. But repetition matters.
- Community: We are intentional to surround them with community outside of school. They have loving grandparents that check-in and text, they have friends (not from school) that we set up hangout time with, and we have awesome cousins that always put a smile on their face. My kids know they have a supportive circle that loves them, even if school is not that circle.
- Filters. I’m a firm believer in “garbage in, garbage out.” It’s difficult to shine if you are immersed in dark stuff. To help them walk the path of righteousness, our kids are not allowed to watch “R” rated movies, play violent video games, they have limited screen time (30 min), they do not have social media on their phones, and we don’t really do sleepovers. I’m not saying parents need to have the same filters as we do, but I do believe there must be intentionality about what kids take in.
- Serve. One of the best ways to teach kids to shine is to serve. Our family has made and served meals at a homeless shelter, made care packages and distributed them to the homeless people downtown, packed food at Feed My Starving Children, made big meals for local teen organizations, and we regularly mow and shovel for several of our elderly neighbors.
- Celebrate victories. When there are breakthroughs, or good days, or answers to prayer, we celebrate! First, we literally get on our knees and thank God for his faithfulness. Then, we go out for ice cream, or plan a fun outing, or even just have a dance party. Drawing attention to God’s faithfulness and celebrating his goodness fuels the desire to keep shining.
Let your light shine.
It’s not the easy road, but it’s the right road. Let me encourage you to…
Keep up the good fight, fellow warriors. Don’t give up. The Lord is with you and he is with your kids too. Train them to shine as lights in the dark. Teach them to be warriors.
As always, I love hearing from you. Send me an email or comment below and I will get on my knees for you. Let’s do this faith journey together.
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