Our friends, Mytra and Callie came to visit us in Louisiana this weekend, so we all decided, being that there is nothing to do in West Monroe, to visit New Orleans on Friday. We, of course, would have the children in tow. Excitedly, we got up that morning and hustled to get showered, dressed, and prepared for the day. We planned to start the day early with a trip to Cafe Du Monde and explore from there until exhaustion overtook us. Mytra was holding Oliver, keeping him occupied while everyone finished getting ready, when she began to have a conversation with him about what was to expect for that day.
She said, “Oliver, we are going to New Orleans today. Are you excited?”
He scrunched up his face and replied in a serious tone, “No, we’re not going to ‘owens;’ we’re goin’ on a ‘venture!’”
To us, we were going to New Orleans; to Oliver, we were going on a grand adventure. While in New Orleans, Oliver tried his first beignet and saw a lot of interesting people and things, but perhaps the most interesting thing he saw was a statue performer right outside of St. Louis Cathedral. She had a sign that read, “I wonder what will happen if you tip her.” We decided that this would be an excellent opportunity to have some fun with Oliver. When he put the dollar in her tip box, she began to move, and he immediately ran to me, amazed and terrified that a “statue” could possibly move! She had retrieved a piece of paper from a box she was holding, and we were able to coax him to go back and get it. It said, “Choose joy.” He was beside himself when he thought he lost it a few hours later. Although he normally will eat paper or destroy it in some other way, he had put this little piece of paper in his pocket for safekeeping.
As adults, we knew the performer wasn’t really a statue, but to a child, magic had just occurred. We went in the cathedral next, and judging by the stare Oliver gave the statue inside, we knew he was convinced the statue was about to come to life! It was joyous to see the wonder in his eyes! The lens through which a child sees the world is riddled with excitement and curiosity and as an adult, it’s hard not to be envious of such a lens. As Christians, we are meant to be a light in a dark world, a difficult task without the faith of a child.
In front of St. Louis Cathedral, there is an area full of darkness, and every time we visit, it is certain that on that street, there will be scores of fortune tellers reading tarot cards and giving false direction contrasting against the beautiful cathedral meant to lead people to light. On every visit, it’s hard not to be saddened by the irony of the sight, but on this trip there was something different. In the middle of all the psychics, there was a man, shining as a light in that darkness, stepping out in childlike faith, and rapping about Jesus.
This man and those accompanying him with music made me think. I remember a time when I was so willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but with time and the dragging of life, I’ve noticed that I have become more reluctant to trust completely and be a light when it’s not the ‘normal’ thing to do. Yes, Dustin and I have moved or travelled multiple times on a whim and a word from God, but that’s honestly not nearly as difficult as overcoming the fear of making a spectacle out of yourself for Christ when it’s not the “expected” thing to do. Life has a way of deadening you, especially when you expect that for all of your past effort and actions in faith that you would be in a different place spiritually, financially, or career-wise by now than you are. Frankly, it’s hard not to give up and let the bits of faith you do have left go. The truth is, though, that God brings us through these winters to strengthen us, and if we don’t give up, I believe that our faith will be restored and made even stronger.
We’ve noticed that our lives have consisted of letting go of our plans over and over, and I imagine that will continue to happen. Now is a time for restoration of our faith, to grab ahold of the childishness of it and move again in the belief that living in “normality” is not being a light. We must relinquish our desires to fit in and be willing to go “on a ‘venture,” see things like a child, and step out as a light amidst darkness. For those musicians, it was rapping about Jesus on a street arrayed with psychics, but for you and me, it might be being more compassionate towards those around us, talking with those we know about the love of God, or praying for that sick person in the grocery store. In small ways, we can all make a big difference.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” -Matthew 5:14-16