Kaleidoscope

I know what it’s like to feel pulled in a million directions, one moment desiring nothing but God and the next chasing a thousand fleeting baubles. In these, the prime years of our lives, we face a labyrinth of pursuits vying for our attention. We have the energy, yes, but at some point, we cannot go any further. This chaos of soul must fall, however violent the crash. But it is only amongst the broken pieces that purpose, fulfillment, and joy can emerge.

The chaos didn’t hit until high school. I’d grown up in a Christian family, the Bible read to us faithfully when we were still in our cribs. When my siblings and I were hardly into our elementary years, my mother would post scripture verses on the dining room wall for us to memorize. My little brother, indignant that she got to “make up” all the verses herself wrote up his own verses to add to the collection. I only wish I could remember what they said. However humorous his attempt, there was no doubt the Word was front and central to life—from education to church life to sibling relationships.

But as I quickly discovered as I entered my young adult years, it doesn’t take much to slide into a world of diversions. How easily our souls slip into chaos, the serving of two masters, the seeking of Christ and the world, the yearning after the Father’s smiles and the praise of peers. I couldn’t help but love the Jesus my parents mirrored for me, but high school brought a thousand other distractions to compete: music, writing, friends, dreams of the future. I felt the tension almost constantly. Could I pursue my dreams and love God at the same time? Could I one moment push others out of the way for the sake of personal ambition and come humbly to the Word of God the next?

Such tension tends to produce extremes. An emotional worship service or a heartfelt message send us scampering to our journals, resolving “never to do it again” (the entry dated and signed for good measure). Then, on Monday morning, the allurements of peer approval and fun entice us to fall once more into our old habits.

Ultimately, the rope of tension must snap. The soul was not made for such chaos. “No one can serve two masters,” Jesus said.[1] I found it true. However much I acted the part or even in the deepest recesses of my heart desired to seek God, the fact was, I couldn’t build God’s Kingdom and my own at the same time. One had to go.

But what does that surrender look like? Must one give up even good activities to wholeheartedly seek Christ? Sometimes the answer is yes. We are to put off “every weight and sin which so easily ensnares” [2] —whether that weight be a destructive relationship, an addictive hobby, or a mere “innocent” pursuit that has taken over our lives. But ultimately, removal only opens a greater vacuum in an already empty soul. Broken pieces themselves will never produce beauty.

One night, I had had enough. I had been reading in George Whitefield’s journals, and I felt I couldn’t have drawn a greater contrast between his experience and my own. There I saw zeal for Christ, a fire that once lit, would drive the man to preach Christ to millions of souls across two continents. “I’d rather wear out than rust out” he once said[3] —and he did, dying of exhaustion at the age of 56. He had met God, and he had never been the same. But looking into my own heart, I didn’t see much fire. I was assured Christ had saved me, but I wanted more. “Lord, I don’t know what I need, but please give me something else.”

He answered that prayer, and is yet answering it. There is “one thing needful”: a deep-seated knowledge of God Himself.[4] Moses had cried out for a glimpse of Him, and radiated the glory of the sight. Isaiah had seen Him, and had been undone. Paul’s encounter with the very Jesus he was persecuting would leave Him forever changed. And so we, through a desperate study of His Word and prayer, must know Him, not merely academically but experientially.

Surprisingly, I found the more God reveals himself, the more the rattling pieces of broken glass on the outskirts of life come together. The more life centers around him, the more the daily activities of life—school and work, relationships and recreation—emerge not as conflicting foci but as increasing means to glorify Christ. After all, if we can “eat and drink to the glory of God,” surely writing a paper, reporting to our boss, or cleaning our room can be done in worship as we do it with excellence to the glory of God.[5]

Through the chaos, Christ emerges, a Kaleidoscope transforming broken pieces into dazzling beauty. We are but human, and the strengths and weaknesses with which we struggle will not disappear this side of glory. But either we’ll spend our lives listening to the ugly pieces rattle inside, or we’ll look to Christ, and through Him, our broken lives will come together to reflect his glory. “Apart from Christ, let nothing dazzle,” St. Ignatius said.[6] Only that Kaleidoscope will bring everything into focus—around One, our All in All. He changes everything.

-Julianna


[1] Matt. 6:24, NKJV.

[2] Heb. 12:1.

[3] Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield: God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century (Wheaton: Crossway, 1990), 195.

[4] Lk. 10:42.

[5] 1 Cor. 10:1.

[6] Ignatius, The Epistles of St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (New York: MacMillan, 1990), 45.

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