I spent the summer of 2017 in Brazil, working in a women’s rehab. I struggled as I watched a young woman who had so much potential walk away. Walk away from true life and choose death; life on the streets of Brazil.
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” –Deuteronomy 30:19
As I watched her stroll down the street hand in hand with her physically and emotionally abusive boyfriend, my heart twisted and was torn. In dealing with the frustration and pain, God gave me this analogy:
The Lightbulbs of Life
When someone has a lightbulb moment, light is shed on a concept or belief that they were in the dark on before. They can now see and understand the way to go in the new light. Each nugget of truth, knowledge, and wisdom you have is a lightbulb. And just like a lightbulb, it will produce no light in your life unless you screw it into the socket; unless you apply it. Knowledge you possess won’t produce any growth, change or healing in your life if you don’t put it into practice. Not applying what you know is like walking around in the dark with a lightbulb in your hand saying, “I can’t see. Why isn’t this thing working?”
Jesus said, “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” –Matthew 7:26
You cannot screw in a new lightbulb until you unscrew the old one. You have to get out the ladder and do the work of unscrewing old thoughts, habit patterns, and beliefs before you can screw in new beliefs and see The Light in your life. You are the only one who can unscrew old lightbulbs with Jesus. Anyone can give you new lightbulbs, new nuggets of truth; but only you, with Jesus, can unscrew your old ones. And He won’t do this by force. You have to ask. You must surrender yourself and allow Him to come into your home and work on you. Be willing to let Jesus come and remove the old lightbulbs that are burnt out, shattered, or producing little light, and replace them with His truth and bright light. No one else can do this for you. And you can’t do it without God’s help. I can give someone boxes and boxes of lightbulbs of knowledge, truth, and wisdom, but I can’t force them to start using the lights I’ve given them. In the same way, I can stuff myself full of the knowledge of God, but until I begin to obey Him, I won’t see The Light in my own life.
As that girl walked away, I realized the frustration of giving someone all your lightbulbs of knowledge and wisdom, but they choose to stumble around in the darkness anyway. I thought that once someone was aware of the truth, once they had it, of course they would apply it. But I cannot change my neighbor’s lightbulbs. I cannot fix their thinking. That’s not my job. Only God can reveal and illuminate the Truth to them. He is asking me to keep handing out lightbulbs; to keep sharing what I know and the hope that I have found regardless of what anyone does with it.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:14-16
I am learning it is not my work, but God’s. I keep obeying simply because He asked me to. Because I love Him. I consider myself blessed when I get to witness a life light up because of the way God is working in them; the way He allows me to take part in His illumination of their life. Because Jesus is the Light. Not me.
“He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” John 1:7-8
As a kid, you have empty sockets. You’re just screwing in lightbulbs left and right. Parents, teachers, and the world are helping you, screwing in their beliefs alongside the Truth. And because some of the bulbs are producing light, albeit dim light, wrong thinking gets rooted in you. Just like you can stumble around through a dimly lit room, you can stumble through your life with only part truths or low wattage bulbs. And because you’ve lived this way for so long, your eyes have adjusted to the darkness. It isn’t until you see someone shining brightly that you even realize at all that you have been walking in darkness. You may even dislike this person because you are blinded by The Light in their life. Or people may not like you because you are that person; revealing the sin in their life with The Light you carry in you.
The more lightbulbs you screw in the wiser, more enlightened, and brighter you are. Just like some buildings have more light than others, some Christians are applying more truth and shining brighter than others. You could be one of those Christians who is living in a comfortable 40-60 watt atmosphere. You’re saved. People know you go to church. You tune into the local Christian radio station, and support a child in a third world country; but you aren’t shining as brightly as you know you could be. You don’t have 100 watt bulbs burning in your house. You yourself can see, but you aren’t sharing The Light or passing out lightbulbs.
“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” –John 1:4-5
I have come to learn that I spread The Light the least when I myself have barely enough light to see. When I am disconnected from the power source and running on the generator. I shine brightest when I am full of The Light. When I am in close communion with God and my eyes are fixed on Jesus. When my eyes are looking at the things of this world, I am in darkness.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” –Matthew 6:22-23
Just like lightbulbs are different sizes, watts, and shapes we are all created differently for different purposes. God has unique and individual plans for each of our lives. We are all called to shine the light of Jesus to the world, to produce light. But we are not all created to put lightbulbs in the exact same socket. There are specific people, geographically and circumstantially, that only you can reach and in a way that only you can reach them. Good works prepared in advance for you specifically to do.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” –Ephesians 2:10
Sometimes, in attempts at doing those good works, you are giving the person you are trying to help the wrong lightbulb. They can’t apply it in the same way you can. They need a different lightbulb for the same problem. They are wired differently and have different sockets. Maybe you don’t have the lightbulb they need. You have The Light, what the bulb produces, but the bulb itself (or way of going about the problem) cannot be applied, is not useful to them in that circumstance. Or maybe it’s the wrong timing. And one day, they may screw in that lightbulb you gave them, you just won’t be around to see it.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” –Galatians 6:9
So how bright is your light? Are you sharing your light bulbs? Are you reaching over trying to screw in your neighbor’s lightbulbs? Do people even know you possess The Light? Have you invited The Light into your home? How connected to The Power Source are you?
I don’t have it all together. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have all the faith. I don’t have all the knowledge, wisdom, or understanding. I don’t have all the gumption, “want to,” or perseverance. I don’t have all the lightbulbs. But I do have Jesus. Jesus is the light of my life–my power source. It wouldn’t matter how many lightbulbs I possess, without Him I would be in darkness. He saved me from the depths of my despair. My hopelessness. My unwillingness to carry on. If you knew me then, depressed, drinking continuously, sometimes for days on end; and you know me now, dancing in the streets for Joy, the difference is night and day. From death to life. Slavery to freedom. Darkness to light. If I stay connected to the true Light, the Light of the world, Jesus; then maybe others will want more of the lightbulbs I have.
Today I choose life. I choose The Light.