Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives September 2013

Life & Faith

The Servant as Hero

There is a place, somewhere else, that looks better to us than where we are…A ladder to climb to reach success, which usually shows itself with dollar signs, or trophies, or the adoration of other people. We elevate personal ambition and accomplishment, idolize individualism, sacrifice greatly in the making a name for oneself, and regard those who have attained some level of discernible success as being better than those who have not. There are pursuits and dreams that promise greatness, but fail to actually live up to their hype. Perhaps they do provide money, acclaim, and the esteem of others, but greatness? I’m not convinced.

Still, I’ve longed for that place, somewhere else. For the regard of others. For my name in lights, so to speak. To be valiant and daring, and out there to win it. Whatever it is. And it seems only natural for us to want to reach up for whatever waits up there outside of our grasp. Of course we want to succeed. And we want our children to succeed. But what is real success? Are the true heroes the ones who hold trophies over their heads or have larger-than-life public personas? Are the people with lots of credentials attached to their names more important than others? And how much pressure do we put on ourselves or our children to be great, when we have greatness all wrong?

When we are reaching up and our personal gain becomes the object of our worship, we lose sight of the truth and spend ourselves to build and maintain our own glory…an exhausting and impossible task. Eventually the arms become tired and the golden world we were holding spins out of control and off its axis, right down to the depths where true greatness lies…in the surrender of ourselves for the glory of Someone else.

We don’t attain greatness by moving upward. Greatness comes by being made low. By cultivating the fields given us with care and respect and diligence. By taking hold of simplicity and applying ourselves to hard work, in the humblest way. In the upside-down world of Jesus, heroes look more like servants than giants, moguls, or celebrities. Heroes look like mommies and daddies who empty themselves for the good of their children…giving love and grace and goodness. Heroes look like nurses and soldiers and missionaries and teachers, who spend their lives pouring themselves out for others to be filled up…in the process, hopefully discovering the greatest purpose there is for life…to bring more life and goodness.

If you don’t feel like you’re ever going to make it to the top of the ladder, you might consider taking the shortcut to the low place. Cut the strings that bind you to the struggle to make yourself important, and find the place of peace inside the heart of God who loves the humble heart. Blessing from God flows down and collects in the lowest places. Thats where I want to be.


Life & Faith / Motherhood

Being Brave

I drive three hundred miles through the desert to get there. I notice, maybe for the first time, the beauty of the desert land as I pass. The hills, open-faced to the sun. Scraggly foliage reaching up in spite of heat and dry ground, raw and bare to the elements. I think to myself how my heart knows the desert…how it was there in the desert when I first came close to Jesus…the raw, real, gritty Jesus. Much different than the whitewashed one I knew before.

I used to think that being brave meant being fearless. The brave person was confident, resolved, focused. Not terrified, broken, and scattered. In the face of my trials, I never could find my bravery. That fearless kind of bravery, anyway. I cried all through them. Sobbed, actually. I cowered and collapsed. I prayed feverishly and impatiently…not nice prayers, but desperately honest ones. And found that being brave doesn’t mean being fearless at all. Being brave is all about reaching up to God for help in the difficult times, acknowledging our need for Him, and trusting that He will bring help, because He does.

Being brave is about facing the hard things, even if our knees are weak and our arms are tired. It means going to the place where we own our failures, name our hurts, give voice to our disappointments, aches, and sorrows…all before a mighty God who hears, who cares, and who moves on our behalf when we are humble enough to call for Him instead of trying to survive solo. He promises to lead us into all truth, and the truth is good stuff, even if it doesn’t feel like it at first.

This trip to the desert was extra special for me. It reminded me of zillions of prayers I cried out in desperation that have been answered. Of a brokenness that has been mended. Of an understanding I now have that there is no hardship in the world that would not be worth what I have gained in the pursuit of Jesus. How I mean that with every fiber of my being, and how I long for everyone to find and understand the immeasurable hope of Jesus for themselves.

“After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10

He, Himself, will do it. What a promise.

I met this angel-face while I was away. Her mama is one of my dearest friends…A friend who traveled with me in the lowest days. One who has repeatedly breathed life into me, passed on bits of courage, inspired me to open my heart more to Jesus even when I wanted to snap shut, and taught me by example what it looks like to be a brave mama in the face of hard things. I see her courage in this baby’s face…the beautiful result of a life yielded and willing to put aside comfort for blessing. So honored to be her friend, and so thankful for all the riches God has given me through her and her family.