Thursday, January 19, 2017
“In the kingdom of glass everything is transparent, and there is no place to hide.” ― Vera Nazarian
There is something that we see and yet we don’t see. I was reminded of that the other day as I was leaving a hotel in Mwanza. I was reminded because I walked right into a glass wall thinking it wasn’t there and I was walking outside. I banged my face, staggered back and looked around to see how many people were laughing. There was only a janitor, and he was worried that I’d been hurt, but it was just my pride. Now from what little I remember from high school chemistry, glass is a solid you can see through (but not walk through). But why can you see through it? I have a friend, Dr. David Paul, a professor of chemistry who once explained all of about glass to me. He said that because of the molecular structure of glass, it does not absorb the radiation wavelengths of light that we can see. He also said that by a very strict definition, glass is, in fact, a liquid (okay that's weird).
Even after Dr. Paul explained it to me, I’m still not really sure I understand, but you have to admit glass is funny stuff. Not only can you see through it, you can build with it and mold it into almost any shape. You can use it as a tabletop, for windows, for picture frames, and there are even glass scales. It can be wafer thin or so thick it will stop bullets – yet still it’s transparent. It is this transparency that is most intriguing. Transparent means letting light in and being able to see through it. Translucent means letting light in but not being able to see through it. I’m partial to the transparent kind. I love being in houses with lots of glass. I like the light. Of course, if you can see out, others can see in – making it a kind of mixed blessing. Most of us like the seeing out part, but aren’t too thrilled with others seeing in. Hence all the cars with the heavily tinted windows.
Metaphorically speaking, most of us like to surround ourselves with glass because we like the insulating quality, and we like to see out without letting others get too close. It makes us feel protected and safe. I’ve been in nineteen countries around the world, but some had friendlier people than others. I especially remember Greece, Brazil, Peru, here in Tanzania, and the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean. In all of these countries, the thing that impressed me the most was the absence of glass around the people—not the stuff that breaks but the metaphorical kind. These people were friendly, open, and forthright – like open windows inviting me to look in. Oh, not everyone, but so many that I couldn’t help but be impressed by their openness. Apparently not all people have to have glass in front of them. But even if we do, we can use it to fulfill what Christ has commanded.
A piece of glass, while transparent, is also very reflective. If you’re holding a piece of glass in front of you (outdoors on a sunny day) you can tilt the glass until someone looking at you can no longer see you – only the reflected light of the sun. Almost every one of us, at some time or another, has been behind a car when the sun was reflecting off the back window, blinding us. Yet if the light is coming from a different angle, we can see inside of the car. This is where Jesus comes in. He tells us to let our light so shine before others that they see the glory of God – not us. In other words, if we are living as Christians, we are using our glass to reflect God’s glory and not our own. If we are not so anxious about getting the credit for what we do – then it’s God who gets the glory. For a long time I was guilty of occasionally doing good things and then crowing about then. This was wrong. Now, I occasionally get thank you emails and cannot remember why the person is thanking me. You can do good so often that you forget about it—like glass that you see but don’t see.
If you really know me, then you know that I am not yet holding my piece of glass so that only the light of the Son is reflected every moment of every day. However, I am aware that I am holding a piece of glass, and I am tilting it – I just don’t have the angle quite right yet. When we are what Christ wants us to be, we eagerly tilt the glass because we want God to have the glory. That’s what we’re really supposed to be about as Christians anyway. We should be about glorifying God and edifying the church. We give God the glory as we build up the people of God, but we cannot do this if we want others to see what we are doing so that we get the credit. We all know someone who reflects only the glory of God, so we know it can be done. I have met people from Athens, Greece to little Gravette, Arkansas, who do just that, and I want to be like them. I think we all really do. We just have to tilt our glass a little more. And while I am still not sure if I completely understand why I can see through the glass, I completely understand how to use it to reflect the glory of God. So do you, and you know it. The question is, “Do you want others to see you, or to see Christ in you?” How you answer that question makes all the difference for now and for forever.