By Tiffany Link
Recently in my quiet times, I’ve been working through Amy Carmichael’s daily devotional, Edges of His Ways. I’ve found multitudes of little treasures in Amy’s words. This morning, as I was flipping to the day’s reading, I became distracted by another devotion entitled “Burning Still”. The words drew me in, and I was particularly struck by the scripture for meditation, John 5:35. In the passage, Jesus talks about John the Baptist, He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. (ESV)
A burning and shining light… for a while. Perhaps the idea stood out to me as I sense God igniting a new fire in me. At 51 years old, I am no longer a young woman. I’m not quite an older woman either. I find myself in that odd category of “middle-aged”. It feels a bit like a bridge, a passage from one period to another. A time to reflect on what has passed and cast new vision for what is ahead. While no one can predict the number of their days, God has been stoking in me a passion to use the time I have left wisely ~ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16, ESV)
Having a relationship with Christ for 23 years, there is much to reflect on. Coming to faith at 28, meeting my husband, and becoming a wife marked the earliest days of my walk. Then came the birth of our three sons and our period of serving God overseas among the least reached. Through all this, I was young in faith and full of zeal for the Lord, and not nearly as wise as I thought.
Then came the 40s. I was not prepared for this decade. Shortly after returning from the mission field, an MRI uncovered a tumor, the length of nine vertebrae, in the spinal cord of my oldest son. I had no idea a ten-year marathon to his healing lay ahead.
Adoption also made its way into our life in this decade, resulting in tremendous joy as we brought home a beautiful baby girl and tremendous loss when a second adoption ended painfully. The birth mom decided to parent, and though we offered our full cooperation and support, it devastated our family after attaching to the baby for three months.
Then there was the moral failing of our beloved pastor, a mentor and friend for over 20 years, who baptized us, married us, and dedicated our children. The final recurrence of my son’s tumor, the adoption disruption, and the stepping down of our pastor all occurred within a one-month period. Well, I broke. While I did not lose my faith, my heart turned cold toward the Lord. It was a three-year journey to restore my heart, a three-year testimony of God’s kindness and faithfulness.
I would not have chosen that decade. I would have chosen perfect health for my children. I would have chosen wisdom to not pursue a second adoption. I would have chosen my pastor to maintain his vows to his wife, to his Lord. But the beauty of being a follower of Christ when it comes to reflection is the ability to look behind and see “He works all things together for good.” (Romans 8:28) We are unable to comprehend in the moment the individual brush strokes of the Master Artist, but when the painting is finished, we see how the one stroke created depth on the canvas.
Because of that decade, God taught me Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (ESV) I didn’t learn to rest until I was heavy laden. Rest has become less ebb and more flow. I have learned to trust more and labor less, all praise to God!
Yet, as I cross the bridge from younger to more mature woman, I look behind less. More often, I have my eyes turned toward the future. In doing so, I find myself in a sort of holy tension. As I trust and rest in His peace, I am simultaneously stirred toward the desire to be a “burning and shining lamp”, to illuminate Christ in our dark world with the time I have left. And I find that requires a kind of diligence in seeking Him. I have no light to offer the world in and of myself; followers of Jesus know that in ourselves dwells no good thing. Only by being more and more consumed with Christ can light shine from my life.
I think of the Proverbs 31 woman whose lamp did not go out at night. Or Exodus 27:20, when God told Israel to bring pure olive oil to the tabernacle so a lamp would continually burn. A lamp needs tending, and a lamp needs oil. Only by tending my relationship with the Lord, and having the oil, a picture of the Holy Spirit, alive and active in me, can I burn brightly with my remaining days.
So, I must rest, and I also must strive, not toward works, but toward Christ, the only hope of glory. A holy tension indeed.
As I think about my reader, I wonder, do you find yourself on one side of the bridge or the other today? To the younger woman, in the beauty of singleness or with children at the hem, I would pray for rest, sweet and tender rest in the Lord. For the mature woman, I would ask, what words of wisdom do you have as I head into the unknown, striving for more of the Lord? For all of us, I pray we might learn to embrace the holy tension and remember our days to shine bright only last “for a while.”
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:14-15, ESV)
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