“Do you ever remember there being such unrest and turmoil when you were a kid?” my youngest son asked as he and his brother and I began our Scripture study together. My heart broke. To be honest, I can’t remember the groaning of the world being brought as close to me as it is for this generation that bravely battles for hope. I don’t remember such a preponderance of 24-hour news channels: the hour’s news in my day was at 6am, 6pm and 11pm. Our internet was the morning paper that spoke of events of days before with a smattering of heartwarming stories. Today we have newsfeeds that incessantly scream of the ugly side of humanity in its every facet. It would appear that hope is a preciously rare commodity these days! We need to dig deep to find good news and glad tidings that we insist must far outweigh the less-so! Save for a 30-second sound byte at the end of the broadcast, these rarely seem to see the light of day in the feverishly frenzied goal of garnering more views. We are doused and inundated with 24/7 communication that for now seems to seed hopelessness and continue to paint a very grim picture of the world, and human-far-from-kind within it.
And yet. As the boys and I continued to ponder this together; as we considered how thousands open up their homes in the midst of devastation, how many courageously step into the fray to watch over and care for the wounded in body and spirit, how even one supports and encourages and tends to another affected by an act of hate, it became clearer to us that hope is still out there even though we may see shadows.
And that made us think.
Have you ever taken a good look at packed flowerbeds, or even a bouquet of flowers? Do you remember the kaleidoscope tubes of childhood? Have you ever looked at a painting on the wall, or studied a photograph? Have you ever noticed that there are always shadows, thin strips or spots of black between petal and background, between bed and distant landscape? Smudges of shadow behind mountain, or scattered around a still-life? Do you remember how each jewel of rich color in those kaleidoscope tubes was framed by a very thin line of black?
Shadows. Darkness serving to bring color into sharper focus and greater intensity, to lift the subject matter up and out and give it dimension.
In photography, as much as in painting and other art forms, we are told that shadows add contrast and drama, and they help us to draw clearer focus on the content and composition. Each streak of color, each shape has more pop, and each pop reveals its form with greater clarity. Your eye is drawn to detail you wouldn’t otherwise see, texture that would be otherwise hidden. Shadows help to define an object. According to the Swiss painter Johannes Itten, “the contrast between light and dark is one of the most expressive and important means of composition.” (http://bit.ly/29SGanZ). Isn’t that interesting!
Yes, there is purpose to the shadows, to the smudges of charcoal and ink, and our Master
Artist, our Gardener uses our experiences within these cloudy places for good: to add to our definition, to add texture and highlighting dimension to our hearts and minds and souls. So, when we step out of the shadow to open up our hearts and homes, our time and resources with he or she who is affected by an act of hate or indifference – our jewel glistens and glows that much brighter. When someone extends a helping hand to us in the midst of our own troubles, an encouraging word or warm comforting hug of support – our jewel tones warm and shimmer that much more. When we renounce further seeping-in of the poison of hate, when we turn our backs on retaliation, when we move instead toward the Gardener to ask for His guidance and perspective – our jewel’s hue deepens in rich blaze.
The light shines in the darkness. But the darkness has not overcome the light.
(John 1: 5, New International Reader’s Version)
You know, if we consider whatever the form of kaleidoscope, be it the flowerbed or bloom, the vista or the portrait, the expansive measure and extent of color always far outweighs in intensity, magnitude and vastness than that of the darkness. We can thank our loving Gardener, our victorious Lord for that! And as we wait for His return, we can remain renewed, emboldened and triumphant in the obscurity. So then perhaps, just perhaps, shadow and various degrees of darkness are used for and are subservient to the good of our glow and undertones, for our texture, our shape and form, our composition. They are used in service of the ultimate shout of glory that explodes in the sparkling prism that is us, that radiates with the awe of His glory!
“Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave. So don’t be afraid. The Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go.”
(Joshua 1:9, International Children’s Bible)
God saw that the light was good. He separated the light from the darkness
(Genesis 1:4 , New International Reader’s Version)
Soil and Seed