Have you ever been frightened by a shadow?
Our first ministry assignment, right out of college, was serving as youth pastors in Houston, PA. The church provided a small house to live in, which was located at the top of a hill that connected to the church parking lot. Because of this, our “commute” to church, was simply walking down the hill. While serving at this church, our first son was born. Little “Steve” became a mascot to our youth group, and we have special memories from that time of ministry under the leadership of Ralph and Carole Volpe. One particular day, soon after young Steve had conquered walking, we headed down the hill, to go to church. It was a beautiful sunny day, filled with puffy clouds in the sky. Gaining a little independence, our toddler began walking ahead of us. At one point, young Steve turned around to look at me, but something caught his attention that terrified him. Suddenly he began screaming and running away from me toward the church building. As a first-time mom, I didn’t know what the issue was, but I did know that he was really frightened. In a few moments, I realized what was happening, and what was responsible for this fear. Steve, he had discovered his shadow for the very first time, and it loomed larger than life. His own shadow frightened him. Screaming, he kept running, not realizing that his shadow was following him. Every time he turned around it was there. You’ve heard the saying, “they are afraid of their shadow.” It can be true! In a few moments, I caught up with him, picked him up and comforted him, trying to show him that there was nothing to be afraid of.
I have never forgotten that experience. He is now a grown man with his own children. While he is no longer afraid of his shadow, I have come to realize that other shadows are lurking in all of our lives, and they can be frightening. Many times, we live a fear-filled life in the shadows.
Here are two types I want to bring to your attention.
First, the shadow of PAST HURTS.
Each of us has experienced hurt in one way or another. Why? Because we are human, and no one gets a pass. We get hurt by people, and we hurt people. However, if we are not careful, we end up living in the shadow of hurt. Our Facebook and Instagram are full of passive aggressive posts. The shadow of past hurt covers us and blinds us to what could be in the future. We mistakenly believe that PEOPLE are in charge of our destiny and not God. It is so important to let go of the hurt. Forgive, so the shadow of hurt does not overtake you. Jesus talks about forgiveness and how much we are to offer it to others. He was talking with his disciples about this subject, when Peter asked this question, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times? No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, but seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:21-11 (NLT) Friendships are ruined by the shadow of past hurt and new relationships are skewed. “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9 (NLT) The shadow of past hurt can be debilitating.
Second, the shadow of PAST SINS.
We all come to Jesus the same way, as sinners. However, sometimes we look at our past sins and believe that if people only knew what we did, or who we were, they would never be able to love us or accept us. Here is the truth; your past is a chapter in your story, but it isn’t the whole book. What I have found in life is this, when people really know our story, they love us more, not less. The truth sets us free. Jesus knows your past and he also knows your future, which is greater than your past. The woman who committed adultery was given forgiveness and then Jesus told her to “go and sin no more.”
Your sins can be used as an anchor to hold you down or a springboard to propel your forward. It is our choice. Remember the story in Luke chapter seven, about the immoral woman with her alabaster flask of fragrant oil that used it to wash Jesus’ feet. Jesus had been invited to the home of a Pharisee, a “religious man.” This woman entered the house and began this act of worship and humility as the Pharisee watched. The Pharisee was indignant because she was a sinner, but not Jesus. Jesus used the moment for teaching an important principle. “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” Do you have past sins that are lurking in the shadows, taunting you? Can we really be free from this shadow?
I say, “yes you can!” Let me tell you what I have discovered about shadows from my experience with my son.
I still envision picking up young Steve and holding him close. Comforting him, he no longer was afraid of his shadow. Why? Because my shadow overtook his shadow and he trusted me. The verse that has become a favorite of mine from that experience is found in Psalms 91:1, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.” The closer I stay to Jesus, the less I am concerned about my shadow. As you and I draw near to Christ, His shadow covers us, and we find safety.
Let me say, it is not always easy, and it is not always my first inclination, but God will remind me that He is waiting for me to come close to Him, and I know he is waiting for you too!
Today, come out from the shadow!