Salt, Light, and Orange Juice
(Read Matthew 5:13-14)
We have all known people who have made positive imprints on our lives. Not insignificant, trivial tick-marks, but deep spiritual, and lasting etches to our spiritual well-being. I used to read and listen to a lot of self-help gurus. Wayne Dyer, Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins, and Deepak Chopra to name a few.
Eventually, I found self-help to leave me thirsting for more substance, something more penetrating and permanent. But one quote from Wayne Dyer, has stuck with me for 15 years.
“When you squeeze an orange, you’ll always get orange juice to come out. What comes out is what’s inside. The same logic applies to you: when someone squeezes you, puts pressure on you, or says something unflattering or critical, and out of you comes anger, hatred, bitterness, tension, depression, or anxiety, that is what’s inside. If love and joy are what you want to give and receive, change your life by changing what’s inside.”
This bit of wisdom has always pointed me towards something Jesus preached during his sermon on the mount near the Sea of Galilee. He was teaching his disciples and a very large crowd about what it looked like to be his follower and to serve as a member of God’s Kingdom. After the eight well-known blessings, he proclaimed,
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
Always Orange Juice
After our second child was born, we decided to move to a bigger home. We didn’t know a lot of people in our new community, so we joined a small and comfortable country church. Not long after, we became members. My wife joined the choir and I served in marketing, sound, and other worship arts. We came to know the Director of Worship and Music.
I learned right away what a gift she was to our church. She gave every bit of herself, no matter what the cost to her personal life. No disrespect to the five Pastors I’ve known there, but in many ways our W&M Director was directly responsible for keeping the church alive during transitions and adversity. Without a stretch, many people in the congregation would agree.
There were some really difficult years for this church. There were some serious internal rifts between Pastors and church leaders. Serving on church council gave me unfortunate and direct exposure to all of this. At times, we experienced turmoil, low-giving, and uncertainty. Throughout all of this, our Director showed nothing but grace and love. The Holy Spirit emitted from her words and actions no matter the situation.
She endured some harsh criticism from long time friends and Pastors. She planned everything and every major event, function, and aspect of our church life. She coordinated every service, special holiday services, and the music ministry. Our first Christmas service with a brand new, untested sound system brought stress to a whole new level. I was doing sound and was scared out of my mind, she showed nothing but calm and grace.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
We were members at this church for more than 25 years. During this time, I’ve never seen anything from her other than Jesus’ desire for his followers. To be like him. Just recently, we found out that her husband has been diagnosed with a serious medical illness. She now balances her time between caregiver, uplifter, supporter, wife, and Worship & Music Director. Despite these hardships, she is the same person. Her lack of time has squeezed her dry. Almost.
Jesus directed his followers to be “salt of the earth.” Salt is not something that is useful to itself. It’s real value comes from its application to other things. Jesus wanted us to know that we have a responsibility to transform the fallen world in which we find ourselves, just as salt transforms food.
The Fun Aunt
Our backyard is on a small lake. Our dogs loved to watch every single thing that flew, swam, or floated by our house. Day after day, this fun, energetic, and spunky woman would kayak past our dock. Some days, she’d wave, others she would paddle over and talk to us about anything and everything. We used to simply enjoy her crazy sense of humor, her midwestern accent, and her amazing stories of her military service.
She LOVED our dogs. Our new found friend disclosed to us that she is also a dog-sitter. We didn’t know her for more than a few months before we asked her to babysit for us. During our time away, we received texts and snapchats and videos of her playing with our pups. We knew they were in good hands and we felt so blessed to know her. Upon returning home, we noticed that our house was cleaner than when we left. What the heck, we thought?
Turns out our friend suffers from PTSD. We live near a large military base and twice a year, they do intense artillery drills. It gets loud. Sometimes the roof shakes. For people with PTSD, this is a major trigger. Cleaning is one of her outlets.
Our friend grew up in a Catholic home. Like many families, they looked better on the outside than they were in reality. Despite going to mandatory church and Sunday school, she never felt connected to Jesus Christ.
She was abused and raped twice. Once while serving in the Army in Saudi Arabia and one time in the United States in front of her daughter. She did this to prevent her daughter from receiving the same fate. Sinking even lower, she put a 9mm pistol in her mouth, considering an unthinkable ending to her traumatic turn of life.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.”
Being a “light” to the world, is a job description of a Christian, but it also means we are to touch the lives of everyone around us. Light provides a way for us to see through darkness.
Years later, our friend pulled a burning man out of a boat. She administered first aid, stopped the threat of the fire, and prevented further burning of his skin. The men she was with at the time, did nothing, but she jumped to action.
She has had multiple surgeries. She suffers from digestive disorders, and just had 2 steel rods removed from her right arm. What keeps her going, I asked. “I like to make people feel bigger,” she replied. “I feel I have a purpose in life to make people happy, to love, and to give. They can rely on me,” she added.
Two years ago, our friend became involved with ReBoot Recovery, a Christian-based 12-week program focused on healing courses for veterans, active duty military, and their families. They have a positive record of dropping divorce rates, decreasing medication abuse, and reducing suicide numbers. The ReBoot experience, “taught me that what happened, was not my fault. Eventually, I could heal through a spiritual relationship with God.” She admitted that she, “learned that there was someone out there who gave me purpose and meaning.”
Our friend, otherwise known as the dog-sitter, has proven to be a true, giving, light and life-source in our lives. She has more baggage and scars than most people will experience in 10 lifetimes. She also has a bigger heart and loves her neighbors more too. We have gained so much from knowing and loving her. Her light shines brighter than the darkest shadows in this world. Some neighbor’s kids stopped by her home yesterday and courageously asked her if she had any food. She shared what she had and laughed and joked with them. Subsequently, they told her she’s like “A fun Aunt.”
“Lord, thank you for this day — a great day to be alive.”
We have tremendous neighbors. Since we live in a largely military community, there’s a lot of transition even on our own street. One set of neighbors moved in about a year ago and we have become fast friends.
My wife got to know them when the women on the street started to gather in small groups to socialize and bond. They had moved from California and would at least be here for a few years. We have kayaked together, enjoyed cookouts, and lengthy conversations while dog walking. One day, I was talking with the wife of the couple, and I noticed what an honest and beautiful soul she was.
As a child, her grandparents had a huge impact on her faith life. She grew up as a Methodist, but not because she was forced. She went to church because she wanted to and was Baptized as a teenager in highschool. While not having an active testimony for her Baptism, she confided that she has always known, that “God is there with her.”
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
She told me a horrific story about her father being killed in a tragic car accident. With her mom now living alone, she devotes more of her time to her mom and will fly across the country to support her.
As Jesus told us to be salt and light to the world, our friend is both. For centuries, people have placed a high value on salt, using it for seasoning, but also as a preservative for food. What’s amazing is that salt’s usefulness exceeds its size. Just a few grains of salt can make a huge difference in preserving food from corruption. Much like a follower of Christ in this world. Much like our friend.
I asked our friend if her father’s accident was the biggest challenge in her life, and she said, “one of them.” She said that it brought questions to her mind, like why God? It rocked and continues to shake her to the core. But maybe one thing that challenged her even more, was in 2019 when she was diagnosed with Leukemia.
She is amazingly supportive of everyone in our neighborhood. She will drop her plans to be with a friend during a surgery. She will drive halfway across the country as a chaperone because a family relative needed one. She has a lot of life things on her plate.
I asked her what gives her strength and faith. “Each day is precious. God is with me through the trials, through the good and bad.” She continued, that “worrying doesn’t get you anywhere.”
People like our friend always amaze me. When people with huge potholes in front of them show more joy, love, and grace to the world than those with smooth roads, it’s a show of what Jesus meant by letting our light shine to others. This light is seen by others and God. Salt is needed to stop things from spoiling and light is needed because the world is in darkness. To be effective, we need to be visible distinctions from the darkness and decay around us.
We need to emit Christ’s goodness and love when we’re squeezed, pressed, and bruised. This isn’t about making lemonade from lemons. It’s about having faith in our ultimate and perfect future. It’s about being thankful. Our friend told me that her father’s favorite blessing was “Lord, thank you for this day — a great day to be alive.”
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
- With all the pain and hurt in this world, find someone you can help. Even if it’s to make them smile, or lighten their load. Make someone laugh, brighten their day. Be a light to them. This is our calling in life as a Christian. Doing this gives God glory.
- There’s nothing worse than hearing Christians are hypocrites. Yes, we’re human so we’re sinners. Be an example to others, especially non-believers. Be like salt and stop the decay around us.
- Read Matthew 5. Think about how the crowds may have reacted to what Jesus was saying. Think of people in your life who might have similar faith to the women in this devotion. Pray that you can too.
Where else in your life can you live out the teachings of Christ? Look for next week’s Devotion.