Most summer days, you can find me rocking away on my front porch. I like to think of it as an investment in my sanity. Like many southern porches, ours displays an American flag gracefully flying in the wind with the same freedom its stars and stripes represent. High in the breeze, it’s the backdrop of my daydreams, my book binges, my evening porch-lit chats.
But since I seem to thrive on being different, something I love even more than watching Old Glory catch in the air is watching her shadow dance on the ground. Funny how small things come into view and leave you wondering how you ever missed them before. They’re forever on your radar, making their presence known. That’s how it is with me and these flag shadows.
I sit and watch the flag waving high atop my porch, quietly drawing attention to its purpose, and it occurs to me that, just like the flag, we create shadows when we rise up to our callings and humbly live out our passions. Even if we can’t see the fruit of it right now, each wobbly step we take in faith to do the thing God set in our spirits to do creates a shadow that marks the place for others. A shadow that gives sight to the unseen of our obedience.
The truth is, there’s a lot of blind faith in what we do — a lot of “unseen.” Much of the time, we’re stepping out in trust, hoping that what we have to offer resonates with others, but what we don’t often realize is that as we’re stepping out, we create shadows, reference points of hope, marked spaces that declare:
In this life, you can make a difference.
Simply showing up and planting our feet in the ground where we believe God wants us to be inspires others to show up too.
And, friends, it’s okay if we sometimes wonder whether what we’re doing even matters or if we aren’t sure we believe in ourselves as much as the God who called us does. Because here’s the thing: people are good at seeing others’ strengths and measuring them against their own weaknesses, so they don’t need to see our shiny. They’re not served by our waiting until we have it all figured out to show up. They need to see our humility as we tentatively take steps, creating shadows that look like hope.
Back in the day, Paul spoke a good word to Timothy, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received . . . throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress” (1 Timothy 4:14-15 NLT). Not your finished product, but your progress.
Here on the East Coast where I live, it’s been extra stormy lately, so we’ve temporarily taken our flag down a few times, lest a wind-blown flagpole impale itself through a window. (Seems like the right thing to do and all.) But those times when the flag isn’t out — guess what else is missing? Its shadow.
I’ve come to realize that a vital part of our faith is making a way for others to come up, for others to outpace us even. Empowering those who share our path feels sacred to me, because this path we’re on leads to the same place — clear to the heart of God. It’s the way of home and wholeness and restoration and life.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget we don’t need to be writing our eighth book or be on the highest rung of the corporate ladder or be the PTA Super-Mom in order to inspire and invest in others. Right where we are, at this exact moment in time, is where our difference is made. A difference-making life isn’t created from the abundance of success but from small moments of influence marked along the way.
So, on those days when what we have to offer feels small and we can’t fathom its impact, when we’re weary and don’t feel like showing up, take heart. It’s not our shiny, finished product that inspires others but our surrender in the middle of progress.