Monday, February 2, 2015

What our shadows say...

It is my understanding that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning and headed back inside. While I’m not necessarily excited about the idea of another six weeks of winter, I’m not discouraged either. For I’ve lived in Oklahoma long enough to know that our weather is pretty hard to predict – even for the most meteorologically well-studied of rodents. But on this significant holiday (please tell me you smell my sarcasm), I’d rather talk about another shadow…your shadow.

When you see your shadow, is it a long shadow? Is it a small silhouette? Is it even visible? Well, obviously that’s dependent upon other factors – time of day, cloud cover, lighting, etc. However, today I’m asking about a different shadow; I’m referring to your spiritual shadow. Allow me to explain.

For one to have a long shadow, the sun needs to be setting lower in the sky. As where a noonday sun that shines directly overhead, results in a much smaller shadowy representation. So then, spiritually speaking, describe your shadow. Does your shadow make you appear as a giant, or like one that’s simply under the power of our universe’s central star? Or to ask it another way, is the sun (Son) high in its (His) rightful place or positioned for a quickly approaching dusk?

Yes, I know this is a unique way of asking, possibly even silly. Yet I contend that our answer to such goofiness can be quite telling. Are we making much of us, or much of Him? Let’s consider this together: if you are bigger (long shadow), then remember this shadow is only a mirage. For you and I are not imposing! We are not as big as we appear. In fact, if we see ourselves as big, then the sunlight we have is fading and darkness is drawing nigh. I believe the illustration is not lost on this point, for when we increase – when we are center – when we begin to notice and believe in the false illusion of ourselves, we take our eyes off the True Light and we become vulnerable to darkness.

But let’s not quit there… When our shadow is minimal, the Giver of Light is high, exalted, and over all. In these times, we rarely even pay attention to our shadow for our gaze is out in front of us – looking to the field we’ve been called to labor in. In this scenario, it is not about us, but the world we’ve been allowed to see through the gracious illumination of the Spirit.

And in hopes of exhausting this word picture let’s contemplate something even better. We’ve established that smaller is more desirable because it makes much of Christ and little of us. Nevertheless, even better than our shadows being barely observable is for them to not exist at all. How does Phil (the Groundhog, not our Pastor) know that spring is coming? Well, according to folklore, he doesn’t see his shadow, for it is covered by the much larger shadow created by the clouds. In the same way, growth, refreshing, and newness – our spiritual spring draws close as our shadows disappear. Yes, when we are positioned beneath the much larger shadow of the cross, we decrease. Better than that, “self”, completely evaporates. We are not scorched by the overwhelming heat of the all-powerful One that is looking down on us, but rather sheltered under the finished reconciliatory work of His cross. We walk in the shadow of His grace and mercy. We work in the cool of His shade. The only shadows we see point us back to our great King of Kings.

In closing, I acknowledge that there are sunny days, long afternoon shadows, and times of merciful cloud cover. But friend, we must ask ourselves another important question: what do we long for? That is to say, what do we truly desire? Do we want to look bigger, appear as more? Is our focus to make much of us, or much of Christ? Is it our hope to see God in His rightful place – high and exalted, shining over all, granting shadows that turn own attention and affections heavenward, causing us to cease striving in our own strength, glorying in the covering of the cross?

Oh, may our theology not be focused on us; may our hope not be misplaced. Father, help us see our desperate condition yet the Savior’s perfect provision; might we recognize our helpless state, even so, Your amazing grace. May our shadows say nothing praiseworthy of ourselves, but sweetly sing of Your great Gospel!

Matt Fowler
NBC Family Pastor of HS

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