Leisa McDonald – Global Outreach Staff
“Oh little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.” The words from this Christmas carol created an image for me of a small, peaceful village on a hillside. I was eager to visit the place of Christ’s birth on my trip to Israel last fall and this peaceful village image was in my mind as I prepared to leave.
Imagine my surprise when the image above was what greeted me! This is the barrier wall that surrounds the city of Bethlehem today. Because this city is in the West Bank and walled off from Israel, it cannot exactly be described as peaceful. My image was shattered and I felt like I had been let down somehow. What was that author talking about?!
What shattered images have you encountered in your life? Many of us come to marriage with an image of wedded bliss…only to learn that two people becoming one involves work and can even be painful. Worse yet maybe you experienced a spouse who has been unfaithful, abusive or simply absent. Maybe you’ve had an image of someone you respect come crashing down when you learned of their character or integrity issues. Others of you may have anticipated what being independent would look like and are learning that it takes hard work (at a job you may not be passionate about) to earn the money necessary to cover bills and support yourself or a family.
Having an image shattered causes us to take pause, can create disappointment and in some cases even cynicism. I was asked after my trip if I felt closer to God after being in the Holy Land and encountering places where Jesus walked. The answer is yes, but not because I got to walk where Jesus walked and see the places he lived and traveled. The answer is yes, because I got to see God.
As Cal’s Easter message noted, when we shatter the mirror (or image) we are focused on, then we can truly see God. Where is He in Bethlehem today? In the hearts of the people who are crying out to Him to end their oppression and in those working to bring peace and reconciliation. He is present when a Palestinian father who has lost a child to an Israeli officer can say, “I forgive.” He is present when an Israeli mother whose son, serving in the Israeli Defense Forces and killed by a Palestinian, can say, “I forgive.”
Are you looking for God in your shattered images? He is there and He can help you overcome disappointment and cynicism. He can bring healing to your heart that helps you to love and forgive despite the hurts or let down you’ve experienced.
While the image I had of Bethlehem was shattered, the image I captured is beautiful to me…despite the ruins, cement wall and barbed wire. The blue sky is a reminder that God is bigger than our shattered images. That little town of Bethlehem brought forth the hope of the world as captured in the song author’s next lines, “Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the Everlasting Light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Whatever shattered image you are dealing with, consider these words from Lamentations 3:21 – 23 (NIV), “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
God can take our shattered images and provide us new perspective. I encourage you to take the pieces of your shattered image to Him today and ask Him for a new perspective.
Song quotes taken from “O Little Town of Bethlehem” by Phillip Brooks c.1868