Jesus stood silently before a large gathering of men, women and children on this hot summer day in the countryside of Galilee. Desperate to hear what this young radical teacher would say, the people gathered, longing to know if he would be the one who would lead them to victory over their oppressors.
And so, they waited.
“You are the light of the world,” Jesus announced.
“Do you light a candle and then place it under a box?” he asked. “Most certainly not! Rather you place it on a table so that it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before all types so that they may praise God and awaken to the true light within.”
The crowd was bewildered by his words.
What could he mean? “The light of the world?” yeah, right. “How is shining my light – whatever that means – going to change my present state of affairs? How’s it going to help feed my kids? How’s it going to free us from our oppressors? And, how will it create a future worth living for?”
Over the centuries, many wise and learned people have completely missed what Jesus was teaching that day. And I’m certainly not going to announce that I have some corner on the truth here. But still, I wonder…
I grew up in a tradition that readily declares “Jesus is the light of the world” while completely forgetting that he also said: “You and I are the light of the world!”
Could it be that we have missed the whole point of his message?
Like the massive crowd gathered to hear Jesus speak some 2000 years ago, we too often miss the weight, breadth, height and liberty found in his words. And to that end, we, like all those before us, go seeking after Messiahs, Saviors, Liberators and Lovers who will deliver us from our present state of anxiety, apathy and angst.
Jesus was calling his listeners to discover the depth and height of who they were. He was not giving them an easy formula to follow. He wasn’t offering to be their political or social savior; he wasn’t going to be their Warrior King and lead them into battle over their oppressors.
Rather he was offering them true hope and life; an empowering meaning that could radically change the state of their present well-being. “They were,” he said, “the light of the world!” And if they were willing to receive this truth, harness their courage, and be vulnerable enough to let their light shine, they would discover profound peace and joy and meaning in the sweat and toil of their daily lives.
But what does “being the light of the world” mean?
To help us uncover this mystery, let’s take a moment and listen to teacher and author, Ken Robinson.
“Finding your Element (the fullness of who you are) is essential to your well-being and ultimate success,” writes Ken Robinson in his best-selling book, The Element. “Being in our Element depends on finding our own distinctive talents and passions. Why haven’t most people found this?” he asks. “One of the most important reasons is that most people have a very limited conception of their own natural capacities.”
I invite you to read that last sentence a couple more times. It sounds like Robinson is suggesting that we’ve forgotten, or lost, something very sacred about ourselves. And as a result of this forgetting, he goes on to cover three limitations that keep us from discovering our Element, and, to that end, keep us stuck living lives of quiet desperation.
- We’re all born with extraordinary abilities and powers of imagination, intelligence, emotion, intuition, spirituality and raw talent and passion.
- Most of us however, use only a fraction of these natural powers and abilities.
- To that end, most people have not discovered their Element because they are unaware of their own unique powers.
- We’re unclear of how all our capacities work together in a wholistic way.
- We believe that our minds, our bodies, our emotions, our beliefs and our relationships operate independently. It’s like they all function as completely different operating systems.
- Thus Robinson contends that many of us have not uncovered our Element – the light of who we are – because we don’t understand “our true organic nature.”
- We believe the concept that life is linear; that our capacities decline as we grow older and that missed opportunities are gone forever.
- As a result, many of us live in the shadows of past regrets; we believe our lives are fixed in our present state; we’ve lost sight of our potential for constant growth and renewal.
These are profound insights that Ken Robinson is uncovering for us. And I invite you to ponder them in your heart and mind over the next few days. What if you could truly uncover your Element – the light of who you are – and live out your days developing and sharing your passion and talents?
- What might this new reality feel like?
- Who might be impacted in a profound and positive way?
- As you live within your Element, what are you doing with your time?
- What are you now focusing your attention on?
- Who are you now becoming?
Now, I must be honest, there’s no formulaic answer to discovering your Element. It’s a process that will take time, dedication, earnest searching and a questioning mind. But I can assure you, to walk the path of uncovering the strength and brilliance of who are is worth all the effort and struggle.
As Jesus himself stated: “You are the light of the world. Let your brilliance shine before all humankind!”
Until next time…
Be You. Be Unitas.
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