I made a few foolish choices over Christmas.
Eating too much sugar is the obvious confession, but being predictable isn’t a high value for me, so no, that isn’t what I’m about to tell you.
I went to the biggest mall in London on Boxing Day.
If you are an American, this doesn’t seem at all like a confession on foolishness. But right now, all of my British friends are nodding while saying, “Yeah, that was stupid.”
And then I went back a second time – on the first Saturday after Christmas.
A foolish choice only if you presume my going to a place of complete chaos, where masses of people are focused on finding bargains, is about shopping.
God loves to make beauty out of our mess, remember?
On Boxing Day, I was planning to spend my Christmas gift on some clothes at Zara. For my American readers, imagine marrying Ann Taylor with H & M and that’s Zara. Trendy meets classic and on Boxing Day: Economically classy meets fashionably cheap which is hard to find in London.
See how I turned foolish into wise right there?
There were no dressing rooms available on Boxing Day. Not because of the crowds or long lines to try on clothes. No, they don’t make them available. Like, at all. Hello new culture.
Imagine a store filled with hundreds of people pulling on new clothes over their old clothes in front of public mirrors while stepping on discarded coats and blouses heaped on the floor. Foolish, I tell you.
It turns out I’m a fool who loves a good challenge because I bought a sweater. After trying it on while sharing a mirror with a stranger.
My saint of a mother-in-law, Geri, immediately stood in the line designated for making purchases when we discovered the path to the cash register was stacked with people outlining the perimeter of the store. By the time I assaulted all the hangers with sale tags, I joined her at the front of the line.
We stood in line listening to a multitude of languages being spoken. A cultural experience for £17.99; what a bargain!
When I got home, I discovered a hole in the neck of my new red sweater. Foolish was mocking me now.
On Saturday, I stood in another long line at Zara to return my sweater but this time my heart was peaceful, as if I was supposed to be there somehow.
In front of me, a tall woman wearing a fur coat turned around and began showing me why she was waiting in line, addressing me as “Darling.” The dress she picked out to wear on Christmas was sewn with one small error. The hole between the shoulders wasn’t big enough for a head to fit through.
Obviously, trying on clothes isn’t really a thing in London.
And then I invited her to church.
Our conversation transitioned from poor quality clothes to spiritual things and luckily, she was completely open to it.
Before we parted she said something random that resolved what I’d been contemplating for days.
“I knew there was something different about you. You were standing there shining,” she said.
I was shining?
I was thinking about all the clothes I tried on that didn’t fit well for eating too much trifle, mulled wine, and chocolate cake. Lamenting over the aging process and wishing I could wear that tiny dress she was returning. Shining? Really?
Here’s the thing: Every year I pray about a word to name the year. And in 2016 the word I keep hearing is Shine.
Choosing Shine sounds “me” centered but truthfully, it’s foolish to think shine is really about me at all.
“Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.” (1 Cor. 1:27-31, MSG)
As providence would have it, amidst throngs of people, our paths crossed again and my new friend introduced me to her family members. As I handed them each a business card her mother exclaimed, “It’s good to know other Christians in London.”
If you’ve begun the year feeling as though time has been wasted and everything feels meaningless, may God reveal His face shining upon you in the mundane moments of life.
This year, every week, I’m keeping account of the way His face shines on me and sharing the encounters with you. This story is the first account. Want to join me by keeping track? Set aside a journal just for this purpose.
“It started when God said, ‘Light up the darkness!’ and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. If you only look at us, you may well miss the brightness.” (2 Cor. 4:6, MSG)
Tell me how His face shines on you this week in the comments.