By Shanna Means
Shining Bright, As I See It
The greatest contribution I can make to this series, is to say, “This is how I’ve defined what I’m doing, this is where I’ve been, these are the questions that I’ve had, the mistakes that I’ve made, this is the road I’m on, the answers I’ve found, and what I’m aiming for.” I’ve been working through this “being a light” thing for a while now. I came to the place where I wanted to get real about what mattered to me. I wanted to be able to define the ‘why,' behind what I do. Without that, I find myself all over the place. It’s the adventurer in me. There’s proof of that in my past. These answers didn’t come overnight or without mistake, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a lifelong pursuit.
I am not one to tell people what to do, but I will share my heart and personal convictions. I hope that not a single person leaves after reading this, feeling like their light ‘doesn’t measure up’ or that they are ‘unqualified.’ We all have access to the same light to shine, equally significant, just expressed differently. All of us can have Jesus to the same degree.
It’s a vulnerable place, when you put your questions and aspirations out there. These are some of mine. I’ve set my sights high, and my aspirations are big. That’s what God calls us to do.
What is my light?
Being a good person wasn’t enough for me. While it is so good and so praiseworthy, it wasn’t what transformed my life. I’m not downplaying the difference that genuinely good people make in the world! I know and follow a lot of great and absolutely amazing people. They inspire me. I have a huge respect, admiration, and appreciation for them. I gain wisdom from them, and look up to them in so many ways; however, they are not my source of light. Good people impact me and the world immeasurably, but I was never able to find all of the answers in them or myself.
Being a Christian wasn’t even enough for me. I wasn’t satisfied with: being saved, going to Heaven, but not really knowing what He wanted to do through me here. Jesus was my light, but I wanted to know more. I had to KNOW Jesus, on a very personal level. I had to have a real relationship, with nothing and nobody in between Him and I.
The light that’s brought transformation to my life, that’s different and lasting, is Jesus. He’s real and good. I don’t have to sort through any ‘dirt’ in His light, He never disappoints, He’s true, constant, and never leads me wrong. His light doesn’t fit in a religious box, and neither does mine.
Sometimes, the only way people see the true nature of Jesus is through others. That is the light that I want to shine through me.
My light is His presence.
What exactly am I supposed to do with my light?
I knew it was to make the world a better place, to make a difference, to drive out darkness, and all that good stuff. I had a notion that God had something specific to say about it, that I hadn’t yet learned about. The God I knew, wouldn’t tell us about how much purpose we have, how much He loves us, and then make us wait until we get to Heaven to experience His original intentions. And then it clicked.
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10)
We’ve all heard this a thousand times. But I never heard it right.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in Heaven.
On earth as it is in Heaven. On earth as it is in Heaven. ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.
My light, is to bring Heaven to Earth.
My light, is to bring the reality of Heaven into the reality of Earth.
My light, is to make Earth, a little more like Heaven.
My light, is to keep shining, until the kingdoms of our world, become the Kingdoms of our God.
This is my blueprint. My vision. My goal.
We have to be willing to be the light of the world, not just the light of the church or the light of Instagram. We can’t hide in pews, and we can’t hide behind our iPhones. These two things are very powerful, and have tremendous influence, but our light should not be limited to them. Our light should not shine differently outside of them.
Do I always get this right? Of course not! I have missed the mark plenty of times. Just this last month, I gossiped, in the moment, and I wasn’t being real about it. I was not calling out the greatness in that person, and I was not edifying her. I did not bring an ounce of Heaven to the people involved or the situation.
I have also gotten it right. In one instance that stands out, an Instagram follower messaged me saying that it was so heartening to her to see an actual person making a particular aspect of Christianity real, versus just living off of Pinterest quotes. She had been searching so hard for truth, but was only able to find it on Pinterest graphics, and that’s what she had been clinging to. She was thirsting for the reality of Heaven, in the reality she was living in. She had never seen anyone be that type of light in real life.
My light is my testimony.
My light, is the Kingdom of God, expressed through me.
What does this light look like?
It looks like truth, in a sea of opinions. Hope, encouragement, joy, freedom. It looks like speaking life to dry bones. It looks like calling out the gold in people. It looks like answers, rooted in truth. It looks like the nature of God.
When Jesus is in us, we naturally tend to exude a particular light. The problem is, I’m not invincible to the many filters within myself and this world. If I want it to remain pure, I need tools and accountability. Sometimes, something as simple as what I’m going through personally, or past experiences, can pollute the truth I’m trying to shine. Even an attitude, that is not rooted in God, can be damaging.
I rely on two tools: ‘the filter’ and ‘the fruit.' I use them as accountability for myself, and for what and who I allow to influence me.
This is a filter in scripture, that we are supposed to run our thoughts through. I have found that I can run anything through this filter, and it will not fail me.
8 "Finally, brethren, whatever things are TRUE, whatever things are NOBLE, whatever things are JUST, whatever things are PURE, whatever things are LOVELY, whatever things are of GOOD REPORT, if there is any VIRTUE and if there is anything PRAISEWORTHY—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you LEARNED AND RECEIVED AND HEARD AND SAW IN ME, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8)
There’s also fruit that we can compare a light to. If the light isn’t producing what’s listed, then it’s got to go.
22 "But the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, JOY, PEACE, LONGSUFFERING, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, 23 GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL." (Galatians 5:22-23)
If my light, is outside of these standards, I need to re-evaluate and search my heart. When someone that I am influenced by is doing or saying something that feels even the slightest bit “off," I run it through the filter, and compare its fruit to the fruit of the Spirit. Same goes with my own thoughts and actions. If it doesn’t line up, I simply trash it.
Why has my light been contrary to this at times?
Turns out, I was created with needs! Wired that way. Needs that are so big, I will always manage to get them met. Some of the biggest ones being love, connection, and significance. Sometimes, I look outside of God to meet these needs. That has never truly fulfilled me, not one time. It has always caused a degree of pain or negativity.
There are the things I do, and there are my core values and beliefs. I’ve asked myself, “Where’s the disconnect?” When they don’t match up. Why did I do that? Why do I have the urge to do this? What is this really about? More often than not, I am trying to get a need met, just looking in the wrong place. The status of my heart and soul (mind, will, emotions), usually lead me to the need.
Personally, this has looked like bad relational decisions in search for love, partying in search for adventure and connection, and posting on social media for acceptance, to name a few. At times, despite my big heart and good intentions, my light looked more like a broken flashlight. It’d sort of flicker. I didn’t allow God to come into every area of my life and shine His truth. When we don’t have all of the lights on within ourselves, keeping God shut out of certain areas, the light we shine is spotty. Something will fill those spaces; besides it being destructive to ourselves, it’s ultimately what we shine for others.
How do I stay out of the ‘rat race’ and remain true to myself?
“Shanna, is this a popularity contest or is this about true influence?” I’m not saying that you can’t be the most popular girl in town, and also have the most Kingdom influence. The Bible is full of people who had so much favor with man and did great, great things for God. They would have had tons of Instagram followers! Of course, there was also the opposite- great favor with man, but not with God. Then there were people in the Bible who were not very popular at all, hated even, but had more influence than the popular leaders of their time. I’ll just state the obvious...Jesus. The issue arises when it solely becomes about gaining followers or the approval of man. As Craig Groeschel says, there are times when we have to be willing to “choose purpose over popularity."
Everyone can play the game and gain the approval of people. There is always a way to make someone say, “Hey, I like you!” It’s exhausting and it’s empty. It’s impossible to maintain, but people spend their entire lives trying. I also have to remind myself that Heaven has different measures of success than the world does. Just because I am getting applause from man, doesn’t mean I’m on the right path. People pleasing is one of my biggest struggles.
I also have to ask myself, what’s the role of what I’m doing right now, in my purpose? There are many times, where the role is simply enjoyment, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I do many things simply because I’m passionate about them, they are desires of my heart, they’re inspirational, and I’m proud of them. Other times, I catch myself ‘playing the game.’ The point is, knowing why I’m doing what I’m doing, keeps me out of playing the approval game and connected to my purpose instead.
I’m a total perfectionist, so I have to watch myself here. The pressure to be perfect these days is overwhelming. In myself, I tend to reject anything that is less than perfect. That’s not healthy, it’s not self-love, and not a healthy way to manage my light. I’ve learned to make sure that I am pursuing excellence, over perfectionism.
How do I shine my light, authentically?
It’s hard to talk about the light we shine, without mentioning authenticity. Leadership and inspiration come in so many packages. The way I authentically shine, doesn’t have to be the way you do. For example, the way I do ministry, doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s ministry. Everyone has a unique calling and expression of God. There is one God, and while His light is expressed completely different from person to person, the fruit will always be the same.
There’s a lot of pressure right now to show authenticity, which I absolutely think is such a good thing. A couple narrow methods of proving yourself as “authentic” have developed and become popular. I have seen people actually step outside of their authenticity, in attempt to prove it. In other words, they gave into the pressure of “how to appear authentic,” but it wasn’t even authentic to them. Authentic doesn’t look the same to everyone. Absolutely be authentic. Let your authenticity shine. Just make sure you’re not trying to fit others’ idea of what that looks like.
You’re brighter than you think!
Let your light shine! You don’t have to have everything figured out to start. You’re brighter than you think, I promise. Start in the everyday moments, in the season you are in. There’s always opportunities to shine your light, and bring a little bit of Heaven to earth. For me, right now, I’m raising a little light.
This is built upon an article, ‘Arise and Shine’, that I wrote on my personal blog, The Western Revival. That article lays the foundation for this. It talks about my struggle with letting my own light shine, letting your own light shine, and some issues that come along with it.
Here’s the link: