This came up on my background today and I was struck by its beauty, but even more taken back by the story. I don’t know if this story is true, I found lots of information on the web about the lights, most of them travel sites, and no one else relayed this story. But I love the idea that while one person died in the earthquake, many were impacted and even more impacted by the beauty of this display every year.
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.Luke 15:4-7
I’m the worst at not looking at the back story. This particular image however posed several questions I couldn’t reconcile with my frame of reference so I took the time to read the back the story. Scripture makes many references to sheep. I grew up with barn cats whose job it was to keep the mice population down and the snakes away. For a while we kept chickens and I have some great chicken stories. For some reason we had two geese once and they were mean. My boys have made me into a dog person, evidently. I’ve known several ranchers that were big into cows and I love to talk to them (cows) as I walk down Forester. But I know flat nothing about sheep. I have never really known anyone who talked a lot about sheep, except Jesus. But in Luke 15 we can understand I have 100 and one is missing. That’s more of a basic math word problem than an agricultural concept.
We have a particular obsession with counting the cost of catastrophes in number of lives lost. I think we are surrounded by so much death that we have to some how quantify it. How many lives does it take to make an event a tragedy? The reality is that it only takes one, if that one person was important to you. The issue with multiple deaths from one cause is that more people are personally impacted therefore more people are aware therefore it is more tragic no doubt. But those fantastic lights in Japan started from a tragedy that took but one life. Clearly not the most awful earthquake to strike, but from it beauty that has continued and grown for years. There is no government or organization behind the lights, volunteers have just kept it up and grown in to serve the community during the cold, dark, dormant months of winter.
One person matters. If I crush the spirit of one person with my words or actions, they walk away hurt and are more likely to hurt, because we know that hurt people hurt people. Kindness matters. Dr. Phil once told a fat lady she didn’t get to wear a sign on her big butt that said, “I’m sorry, I can’t help it my life is hard please ignore my giant butt!” (probably not an exact quote). While he isn’t known for tact or compassion, he is right that we don’t get to wear a sign (although I’d kinda like that butt sign) to justify our disposition. Like it or not we are judged by our actions. My mom used to tell us, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Honestly, I’ve never heeded that advice, but oh how much grief I would have been spared if I had! That could be a whole nother post, “Advice I should have heeded from my mother.”
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.Luke 12:6-7
You matter. You matter enough that the creator of the universe has numbered the hairs on your head. That’s kinda a big deal, even if there are those of us who make that job easier for Him than others. I have this obsession with counting things. I try really hard not to but I find myself calculating things like how many years women in my family lived after their husbands die, how many days I had a husband, how many days my boys had a dad, how many days till schools out. I’m not built up nor encouraged by most of the counting I do, but as someone who stresses about hair loss, I’m particularly intrigued by the scripture that even the hairs on my head are numbered. If they are numbered, then their loss matters and I’m noticing that once gone, they aren’t coming back, and evidently that is significant, even to God. If the hairs on my head are numbered, then you have to notice the number changing, but the changing of the number doesn’t diminish your value. The verse says they are numbered, not qualified, not judged on their strength, beauty or vitality. They exist, they matter. You exist, you matter.
I have to take my one life, six hairs, many flaws and use them to light my tiny corner of the world. One day, friend Lee in Utah paid for the coffee of the person in line behind her. When she went back days later, the girls at the coffee shop were so excited to tell her that it had gone on for a bunch of cars until one jerk took his coffee, said, “Cool” and drove off breaking they chain she had started. Lee is quite a humble person. I’m sure she didn’t intend to start a positive chain reaction, nor shine light on the one person who broke the chain. But her act of kindness impacted many that day and me still to this day. One person started something great, one person ended it. I get to pick which person I want to be, over and over again, I choose. For each person lost, each hair that dies to leave his friends waving in the breeze alone matter to the creator of the universe!
What if we just make one person feel like they matter! What if we added our lights together and created a beautiful display!