Elaborate and intricate expressions of personal joy inhabit the pages of what are called the “illuminated” gospels that came from Ireland and England. People took years to express the fullness of their hearts in an artistic experience of a letter or a word or a small group of words. How do I do that?
If I’m not the monk carefully designing geometric patterns and filling them in with specifically chosen colors, how do I allow the truth and beauty of God’s good news to shine through my life? What if it is in typing in an office? What if it is collecting others’ garbage? Is that as worthwhile? What if it is never recognized by others for what it is saying from my heart?
There is a lesson about light that goes unnoticed that comes from the theater. Lighting designers in the theater know that the only people who should notice the lighting work of a play are other technically involved artists who work with lights. If you’re just a member of the audience and you walk away from a performance commenting on how the lighting affected the presentation, the lighting designer has failed. Lighting, at its best, is experienced but never noticed. It just creates.
That sounds almost like an oxymoron. How can any act of creation be defined as “just,” as “simply.” Creation, bringing something new and life-enhancing into existence, is so amazing. How can we describe as it as seemingly effortless?
It isn’t and never will be. It makes life. That is, it makes living happen well. And when you come alongside someone who really knows what they’re doing in their behind-the-scenes role, you can see how much goes into their act of making life.
A friend of mine, an actor, came to rehearsal one day and was immediately put off by the rug on the stage and colors of the set pieces that made the walls of the “room.” He made a couple of off-hand comments, joking but pointedly suggesting that someone had no idea what they were doing. None of the colors worked with each other. Everything clashed. The lighting designer basically told him not to worry (and to just work on his part, thank you very much). Later, when my friend was sitting in the seats watching others in rehearsal in that same setting, he suddenly realized that nothing looked wrong. All the colors fit beautifully together. The lighting changed everything and made it all work. He never challenged the lighting work after that.
Jesus tells his followers at one point not to worry about living out their faithfulness in secret, behind-the-scenes. He says, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” God knows how lighting works. He knows that his light is shining through us. He’s the one we aim to please. Even if no one else knows it is going on, they experience it and it is creating life. What a wonder.