“Be not afraid”- we hear these words many times in the Bible. Spoken by God or an angel to a person when God is made known and is present or an angel appears. The first response to the light of God, the presence of God is often fear.
This summer in Houston at the 2018 ELCA National Youth Gathering our Y3 youth group got to be part of the mass cast that did a dance routine to the song above from “The Greatest Showman”. Not knowing at first what we were supposed to do some of us were afraid. We were coached to sing out, to be present, to let our lights shine. We got to practice- a lot. It was set up sort of like a flash mob with an element of surprise. The whole crowd sang along. It was a powerful time to “let our lights shine” and not be afraid. I have come back to this song and that dance many times since then.
We got to sing out with joy and not be afraid to let ourselves be seen. How is it for you to let your light shine? As I have thought about that powerful experience in Houston I was reminded of the quote often misattributed to Nelson Mandela (since he used it at his inauguration as president of South Africa). It comes from Marianne Williamson’s book Return to Love.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Marianne Williamson in Return to Love
In our faith communities we give God glory when we celebrate the gifts we have received from God- our light. We give God praise when we shine. Often there is an unspoken church culture of “don’t show off…don’t boast… don’t let the focus be on you.” When we “hide our light under a bushel” we aren’t being humble we are denying the opportunity to let the glory of God be shared through the gifts of God we have received.
I can still see the joy on the faces of the youth and adults as we raised our arms and sang “This is me”. With no excuses, shame or caveats we let our lights shine. We each received a t-shirt to wear in the performance on the front of the t-shirt is the word LOVED and on the back is “THIS IS ME”. May you let your light shine this week and know that you are loved. God has blessed you and given you gifts to share. Be not afraid. You are a child of God. LOVED -THIS IS YOU!