Posted by: mikenicholsblog | December 12, 2010

three-foot section

A friend recently shared the following story with me, and I thought it was timely and worth sharing with you.  From here on, the words are his.

I am perhaps one of the biggest kids at Christmas.  Despite my 40+ years, I am still routinely the first person up on Christmas morning.  In the weeks of preparation, one of my most favorite things to do and see are Christmas lights.  On Christmas trees, on garland, on roofs and eaves, on lampposts and in outdoor displays, it makes no difference … I love Christmas lights.  I love putting them up, and also piling my wife and kids in the van to drive around and look at them.

I was out volunteering the other night and returned home quite late.  I was a bit weary from the activity of the evening, but my heart began to warm as I approached the stop sign about a block from our house.  My wife had left our lights on, knowing it would be just what I needed at the end of a long evening.  But the warmth quickly faded as I slowed to a stop and parked the van on the street directly in front of our house.  My heart sank as I noticed a glaring blemish.  Amongst the continuous strings of white icicle lights that followed the roof line of the front and side of my house, there was a three-foot section that had gone dark.  I immediately became frustrated.

Just days before, I had tested and retested the strings of icicle lights packed away since last year.  My wife then assisted with hanging them.  Myself on the ladder snapping the hangers and light strings onto the first story gutters, and my wife climbing the extension ladder to the story-and-a-half peaked section and clipping hangers and strings to the shingles.  As we stood back after completing the entire roof line and hit the button on the remote for the big reveal, the entire 15-foot first string remained unlit.  After a few bulbs were tested, I ended up removing the entire string, and climbed the ladder once again to replace it.  As I sat in the van staring at the three-foot section, that days-before frustration came flooding back.  And to make matters worse, the small unlit section was near the peak of the story-and-a-half section.

In almost an instant, this three-foot section was all I could see.  Paying no mind now to the other forty feet of glowing goodness, this three-foot section had ruined it all.  I sat a little longer, and my mind started to marinate on a larger thought.  I have three-foot sections in my own life.  Parts of me, or my past that are hurtful or defeating.  Weaknesses, bad habits, failures, secret sin.  Things that when someone else would “drive by”, they might not notice.  But things that are all I can see when I look at my own life.  Brokenness that imprisons me, causes despair, and can blind me to the existence of any other light in my life.

But almost as quickly as the discouragement came, I began to think of the Jesus I know.  The Jesus whose own life here among us shouts that real life exists in the three-foot sections.  The Jesus who spent the majority of his life among us hanging out with three-foot section sort of people.  The Jesus who said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17).

This Jesus wants me to give him access to my three-foot sections, and he wants to fix and heal them.  Although, not for the reason that I might want to fix them.  See, I want it fixed because I want my neighbors across the street, and those who occasionally drive by to say, “Wow, what an amazing light display!  The best house on the block, hands down!”.  No, Jesus wants to fix and heal it because he knows that until it is, I cannot be completely whole.  I cannot be the person he created me to be, and have the freedom only he can give.

And there is one other incredibly important detail in all of this.  Namely, that Jesus does not desire to stand back and encourage or demand that I go up the ladder to fix that three-foot section.  No, he knows that this is the third of three years I have been putting icicle lights on my house where someone else has had to climb the extension ladder to hang the lights on the peak section of my roof.  He knows that when I get above six feet or so, my knees lock, and I cannot take another step.  He knows that I am not capable of fixing this.  No, he wants to walk with me to the base of the ladder, and then he wants to climb up and fix the three-foot section himself.  He wants to walk with me to the base of the ladder, and then watch as he climbs up, and name the truth that I cannot do this. And the further truth that he is sufficient, and he can.

My story ends with an interesting, but (I believe) purposed twist.  The very next night, without any intervention on my part, the three-foot section lit up with all the rest.  And then the following night, it went out again.  Almost a week later the section remains unlit, and may stay that way until I take the strings down after the holidays are over.  I praise God for the truths that I was reminded of that first night, and on the nights following.  And I am OK with acknowledging my brokenness in leaving the three-foot section unlit, if that is the way it works out.

The physical reality is that there is likely a short in the wiring of that section of the icicle light string, or water has gotten into a light socket and frozen, thawed, frozen, thawed, etc…  The spiritual reality is that my life has three-foot sections.  And God blessed me the other night with a reminder that he wants access, and desperately wants to heal them, and live out the purpose he has for me in complete freedom.

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