I trudged across the grounds of the retreat center, making my way to the meeting room. In 15 minutes, I’d have to stand in front of a group of women who’d come to this weekend retreat wanting to learn about kaleidoscope living—seeing God in the patterns of their everyday lives—from the weekend speaker: me.
As I arrived and began to settle in, I wondered what those women would say if they knew how much I needed, right then and there, to see God with near-perfect resolution and clarity. Earlier that week my husband and I had just found out the full extent of a close family member’s multiple mental health and drug addiction issues. Her rehab would probably be long term. The child protection agency wanted us to step in and take custody of her 16-month old son, already in foster care. “You’d be going on a long-term journey and you don’t know the outcome,” said the caseworker. Been there. Doing that! my tired brain had signaled just before it shut down in shock. Mid-life mothering, living in a big city on one part-time ministry salary—mine—while my husband interminably looked for work, an aging father suffering from congestive heart failure . . . I had struggled for weeks now just to stay one step ahead. And now this!
Kaleidoscope living . . . seeing God in the everyday patterns of our lives.
I wonder if that isn’t what our New Year’s resolutions are all about. We clasp our smartphones close, gaze at calendar fields yet to be filled in and decide, once more, we’ll make good on all the promise of those new 5,840 waking hours that wait for us around the corner. This time, whatever it takes, we’ll find clarity of purpose and calling. More than that, though, we’ll seek the particular clarity that comes when we hold our child’s kaleidoscope up to a source of light, turn the tube, and see the random pieces of broken glass that rattle inside suddenly resolve into symmetrical patterns of color and beauty that take our breath away. And isn’t that clarity what we crave when life’s curveballs come and we find ourselves unprepared or unable to just . . . deal?
The word kaleidoscope comes from the Greek words kalos, which means beautiful; eidos, which means shape or form; and scopeo, which means look or examine. So you and I determine to exercise more, eat less, reduce our Internet surfing time, pray harder, play smarter, find a hobby, and spend more time with family and less time at work. The list goes on. Lives worth examining mean we steward our bodies, shepherd our families, wage war on injustice, count the cost, choose simplicity, and follow hard after God. On one level, that seems biblical. But is that shaping truly ours to do?
Step Into the Light
“Unto You, O Lord, do I bring my life,” cries David in (AMP). Kaleidoscope living only happens when we choose to bring the entirety of our lives into the light. We bring our lives to the one who came down in the cool of the day to walk in the garden with Adam and Eve, to the man who said, “” to a motley crew of followers and hard-headed teachers of the law, to the rabbi who invites us to learn from him and find rest for our souls. This light is the man whose death snuffed out light for the hours that he hung on a cross—the man whose rising from the dead means that evil, judgment, and oppression are not the final words on the patterns of our days ().
But having that light all around us can feel harsh at times. It’s not easy to step into that light—to offer up our broken bits of glass and say, “Please show me the pattern. Find me the beauty. Is any of this worth looking at?”
Know How God Sees You
Perhaps it’s difficult because we aren’t sure how God sees us or, worse, we don’t believe him when he tells us.
- “Neither do I [condemn you]. Go and sin no more,” Jesus says to the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11).
- “Dear woman, why are you crying?” he asks Mary Magdalene just before he reveals himself to her and commissions her to go and tell the disciples that he was alive (John 20:15–17).
- “Her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love . . . Your faith has saved you; go in peace,” he admonishes the disciples even as he affirms the woman who’s anointed him (Luke 7:47–50).
- “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness . . . daughter of Abraham,” he speaks to the bent-over woman he heals in the synagogue on the Sabbath (Luke 13:12, 16).
And then there are Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” We matter!
Perhaps it’s difficult to step into the light because those random broken pieces of glass that rattle around in our lives offend us so. We serve the who calls us daughters of Abraham. He’s saved us, made us his own, and strengthened us in and through community. So why does life hurt? On Sunday mornings, why do we prefer to hide how we’re this close to just giving up . . . when the everyday-ness of life has wearied us out, sapped our energy, and left us dried up?
Own Your Brokenness
To accept that life is hard is one thing. It’s even tougher to accept that our lives will not—indeed, cannot—resolve into those bursts of symmetrical color and beauty without those broken pieces and dark shards of glass. lays those facts of life out for us. There is a season, an appointed time—a time designated and fashioned by God—to be born, to die, to plant, to harvest, to tear down, to build up, to cry, to laugh, to grieve, to dance, to embrace, to turn away, to tear, to mend, to love, to hate, to keep, to throw away. In a kaleidoscope, resolution is impossible without broken glass and glass that is dark. In the same way, when we bring the deaths, tears, grief, wars, hates, and loneliness that are part and parcel of our lives to the Lord, we make clarity possible. In the Lord’s hands, our brokenness makes clarity holy.
“O LORD, I give my life to you,” . “I trust in you, my God!” As we stand on the brink of a new year, let’s say yes to kaleidoscope living. Let’s choose to bring our lives into the light because that may be the only act that’s required to bring us true clarity. Resolution isn’t possible unless we give all of who we are to the one who leads, teaches, saves, and shows mercy (). When we bring him our lives, he will spin and twirl them until they’ve resolved into bursts of beauty, and we, in that twirling and swirling, know who we are: new women, shaped and readied for divine use, in God’s way. Women he has made beautiful for our time. And always . . . in his time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Renee James is a regular contributor to Today’s Christian Woman, Leadership Journal, and the Gifted for Leadership blog. She lives in Toronto, Canada, and is the communications director for Baptist Women of Ontario and Quebec. She blogs infrequently at ReneeJames.org.