Here's another piece of a song that I caught the other morning that struck me as being a "spiritual milk" sort of issue: This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Oh yeah.
Most of us know this one, too, and we've sung it a time or two ourselves (especially if we have children). But we run into the same problem here that we ran into yesterday with Jesus loves me - it's only meant to be a starting point for a developing theology, for a greater understanding of God and a deeper faith. This was never meant to be the place where we settle forever.
The reason for that is simple: it doesn't rest on the heart of God. There's no mention of Him at all. It's about our light and our letting it shine. I'm gonna let my light shine. When you don't ground this kind of thing in an understanding of who God is and how you got the light in the first place, it becomes a self-centered doctrine. I am a light because, well, look at me; I'm fabulous. And I'm gonna let it shine because everyone should see how awesome I am. I want to share my amazingness with the world, and the world is going to love it.
Do you see how easy it is for that kind of thinking to actually draw us away from God? Away from the One who made us His light in the first place? It doesn't take much for this little light of mine to become all about me.
Again, what we need is to grow from here. And again, what we have here is the opportunity for two (at least) distinct steps forward.
The first step is to recognize that it is God whose light I am. I am not my own light. Whatever brightness I bring into the world is because He has made me bright. This means attributing all my talent, all my ability, all my heart, all my grace, all my goodness, every meaningful thing about me to the One who created it in me to begin with. Everything I am is because God has made me this way, which makes my being His glory, not mine. So maybe the first refrain that we grow into is, His little light in me, I'm gonna let them see.
Then, the second way that we grow through this refrain is to recognize that whatever opportunities we have to shine in this world are for His glory. That means they are His opportunities, not ours. We don't make our light shine. We don't let our light shine. We let Him shine our light by putting us in the places that He needs us in order to glorify His name. This is a little bit sticky, I know. We want our faith to be something we choose, and it is. We want our praise to be something we offer freely, and it ought to be. But when we let ourselves lose sight of the fact that He is the reason that we choose these things - for His name, not our own - then we risk running into the same trouble we found on spiritual milk. Namely, that our faith becomes something about us rather than something about Him.
This only matters when we're talking about the world. That's why it's so easy to get it messed up. Our faith marks our standing before God. It matters because it is part of the way that He sees us, part of the way that He measures our life. Our faith is to be lived out on display for Him, that we may live with open, honest hearts before Him. What our faith was never meant to do was to show the world what a faithful life looks like; it was meant to show the world what a faithful God looks like. So if at any time the world gets the impression that our faith is something we do and not someone God is, then we're doing it wrong. Maybe, then, it's This little light of His, He's gonna show them this.
Our life is just meant to live as a witness, as an example, as a testimony to our God, not to us. If we never grow past the first few words we learned, we run the risk of missing out on that opportunity, of not living up to what God intended for us - even if we're a light every day. Because we can shine light in the dark places of our world without ever illuminating our God for them (if we're not careful), and that's not at all what we meant by this song in the first place. So we've got to grow through it and learn some new words.