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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Shadow and Light

I’m not an artist, but I love to go to museums and look at paintings. Sometimes as I walk through the galleries, I see groups of schoolchildren with their sketchpads, trying to copy a great work. I glance over their shoulders and try to catch a glimpse of their pint-sized masterpieces. Usually, the shapes and sizes that the children have drawn are similar to those on the framed canvas, but somehow, they’re not the same. In fact, their inexperienced images remind me of my own.

Every Friday throughout elementary school, I had art class with Ms. Floyd. At the end of the week, when I presented my mother with my most recent creation, she taped it to our refrigerator door and lovingly asked, “What is it?” Eventually, it became apparent that although I enjoyed beauty, I wasn’t very good at creating it. Kind teachers used words like “interesting” to describe my work, but in reality, my paintings were flat and lifeless. Recently, I reconnected with a friend who is an amateur artist. I sat in her studio sipping tea while she crafted a simple still life of scarlet geraniums in a copper pot. As I watched her painting come to life, I noticed that she saw things differently than I did. Whereas I only saw lines and shapes, she saw shadows and light, and I noticed that, as she carefully dabbed darkness onto the image, the flat, unrealistic forms gained authenticity and depth.

Sometimes as Christians we’re afraid of what will happen if shadows temporarily surround us. We fear difficulties. And yet, because we live in a fallen world, at some point, we will find ourselves in darkness. It may be the result of a sinful choice, a spiritual discipline, a demonic attack, or a divine test. However, just like in a work of art, shadows add substance to our lives — by deepening our intimacy with God.  

When we walk through seemingly impossible circumstances — a devastating illness, a personal loss, or challenging finances — we gain depth and authenticity in our relationship with God. Although we are not defined by the shadows, they do give us shape, and scripture promises,

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 (NIV) 

God’s light is always there, but sometimes we can’t see it due to life’s circumstances.

Without challenges, our Christian walk can become flat and lifeless, just like immature art.  Art does imitate life, and before the foundation of the world, God created each of our individual canvases with the perfect amount of shadow and light. Everything He has created for us is good. Isaiah 45:3 promises,

“I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness — secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”  Isaiah 45:3 (NLT)

God is creating a masterpiece in each of His children, and He wants the world to see His light as well as the depth of His relationship with His children — depth that is created in the shadows of life.

Copyright © May 2018 Glenda Durano, used with permission.

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