By Janel Breitenstein
You know, I love The Look.
It kindles as a gleam in the eyes, I think; a spreading smile on those chocolate-colored faces. Poised or guarded features and body language acquire a sudden, easy fluidity. And I think: I have made it past their heart’s gate. See, I’ve watched this phenomenon time and again when someone attempts to speak the tribal language here in Uganda. English is a national language, so a good portion of the nation speaks it. But to each other, Ugandans often speak their native tongue. And when a mzungu—a foreigner—attempts good-heartedly to communicate in this language they don’t need to learn, my impression is not unlike this hymn: Hearts unfold like flowers.
Suddenly, the relationship is on new turf. Polite grins broaden with genuine pleasure. Words bubble out, whether the recipient stranger can understand them or not. My impression? You get me. You want to learn from my people. You’re going the distance to relate to me. Welcome to the circle. It’s as if sunlight opened them.
This reminds me, in a way, of our story with God. From the very first verse in the Bible, and throughout, God weaves His image of Himself with light; with truth-telling—with generating life, growth. But John 1 takes His identity of light and life a mind-boggling step further: God is the Light who dwelled among us, literally “pitched His tent” beside ours. Who spoke our language.
Light, of course, can be intimidating. Some Ugandans look a little embarrassed when they figure out I can understand a bit of what they thought was unbeknownst to me. I see Adam and Eve in the garden, hiding their nakedness—but then, after they emerge, I see God, boldly promising an already-planned rescue. I watch Him tenderly, expensively covering their shame.
And just as a glamorous nightclub at night can reveal itself as seedy and worn by daylight, personally, I can get defensive and hostile when the Light flays open my weakness, my diseased insides, the painful ways I’ve injured people around me.
But when the light prods back my arrogance, my experience with the light is that it truly does unfold me. It truly does make me…bloom.
Somehow this light makes me wonder how I ever wanted to avoid it. Once I lay my petals open to its all-seeing honesty, I never want to leave.
I love how The Message Bible puts it:
Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
Spring is creeping across the northern hemisphere; flowers are opening in technicolor succession. They remind me God is indeed on the move, making us come vibrantly alive beneath His gentle, penetrating, persistent warmth; His eternal Sun.
This week, together, may we willfully blossom beneath the gaze of His light.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9