The Glow Stick

17 Aug

Glow Sticks flikr“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

—Matthew 5:15 NIV

If you’ve ever spent any time on the Texas coast, you’ve heard of ghost crabbin’. We were first introduced to the “sport” the summer of 2015 when we ran into a friend of Mike’s in Port Aransas.

We happened to be staying in the same condos—our first night was their last, and Mike was delighted to bump into them.

“Billy! What are you doing here, man?”

Billy laughed, giving each of us a Texas-sized bear hug in turn. “I’ve got the whole family down here, buddy! We’re havin’ one last hoo-rah down at the beach tonight. Ya gotta come! There’s about twenty little ones—plenty of playmates for these hooligans.”

Nick looked uncertain as Billy tussled his hair.

“Seriously,” Billy said, stooping to my son’s level. “Ever been ghost crabbin’?”Ghost Crab flikr

Both of my children shook their heads.

“Then it’s settled. Y’all come on down around nine o’clock. We’re making hot dogs, smores, and as soon as that sun goes down, we’re grabbing flashlights and huntin’ ghost crabs.”

Caitlyn’s face lit up, and she looked at me as if to ask, “Can we, Mama, can we?” I nodded and smiled.

“You gotta be quick, though,” he continued, sizing the kids up. “You quick?”

“I’m the fastest runner on my whole baseball team,” boasted Nick.

“Then I expect you to get a whole lotta crabs, buddy!” Billy patted Nick on the back and this time, he didn’t squirm away.

“Nine o’clock, then?”

Nine o’clock on the dot we crossed the bridge over the dunes and scanned the beach for Billy’s group.

“There they are,” my husband pointed out, and the kids ran off, brand new shiny plastic buckets in one hand, flashlights clutched in the other.

The group greeted us warmly, offering us drinks and hot dogs. A meticulous sand castle project was underway on one side of us, a lively game of beach volleyball on the other. I sat quietly next to Mike, listening as he and Billy laughed and caught up.

By ten o’clock the group deemed it dark enough for ghost crabbing, so Billy’s oldest son rallied the troops, pointing different directions and giving instructions.

“We do this every year.”

I jumped, startled out of my reverie by a friendly voice.

Billy’s wife smiled and introduced herself.

Standing up, I returned the introduction and thanked her for her hospitality.

“We’re so glad to bump into you,” she replied graciously. “Billy has mentioned Mike many times.” She turned her gaze toward the children, then said, “I know they have flashlights, but it was making me nervous to have the kids running around in the dark, so this year I insisted they wear glow sticks.”

As if on cue, the kids started tearing open packages and cracking their sticks. They made them into headbands, bracelets, and necklaces. One boy, about thirteen, broke two and shoved a stick up each nostril.

“Look, mom, I’m a walrus,” he yelled, laughing hysterically as his mother shook her head.

Five more minutes and the kids were off. Except for a few campfires, the beach was almost completely dark. The children had grouped themselves into glowing clusters of four or five and were racing down the beach, screaming and giggling.

After chatting for a few more minutes, someone hollered for Billy’s wife, and she politely excused herself. Sitting back down, I alternated between stargazing and kid watching.

The glow sticks were truly genius. We knew precisely how many kids there were—twenty-four—and I could count exactly twenty-four sets of moving neon bands.

Call me crazy, but I think the glow stick holds some theological implications for you and me.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”

—Matthew 5:14 NIV

The way the glow stick works is like this: The plastic tube contains two chemicals and a dye. Inside the plastic tube is a smaller glass tube filled with hydrogen peroxide. Surrounding the glass is our second chemical, diphenyl oxalate, mixed with the dye. When the two substances combine, voila! You have the glowing neon band we wave at parties and concerts.

Something has to happen, though, before the glow stick can operate at its full potential.

You have to break it.

The great A.W. Tozer once said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”[1]

I think of some of the women I work shoulder-to-shoulder with in ministry. There’s the girl who grew up without a mother or a sense of self-worth. She gave herself over to drugs and men, but everything changed when she met Jesus.

She is about to become a certified Biblical Counselor with a ferocious desire to minister to young women.

There’s the woman who suffered abuse as a young teen and had an abortion in her early twenties. After her husband had left her with four young children, she wanted to die. Instead, she turned to Christ. She has now authored over ten books, speaks at conferences nationwide, and hosted a DVD series to encourage women that they can live again after the pain of divorce.

There’s the man who grew up with a poor excuse for a dad. Instead of wallowing in the pain and walking in his father’s footsteps, he surrendered His life to the Lord. He operates a large, Christian mentoring program for elementary and middle school aged boys and has been granted permission into the public school system.

I think of my own past, a past I’d like to forget. Years and years of self-medicating my undiagnosed generalized anxiety, trying everything and anything to escape the confines of my mind. Years of poor choices and tangles to work through.

Yet God has not let one ounce of my pain go to waste. He replaced it with compassion, empathy, and an insatiable hunger for His Word.

Every one of us—every last one of us—is broken. The question is what will we do with our brokenness?

Our sin left unconfessed will haunt us. It will keep us up at night, invade our peace, and inhibit us from realizing our Kingdom potential. But when we come humbly before our Heavenly Father, acknowledging our inability to do it right, get it right, and say the right thing, He turns our pain into purpose and our trials into testimonies.

Every last one of us is broken. Sin has infested our very DNA. That is why Jesus had to hang, broken, on the cross, so that sin might be put to death and we might walk in the light of redemption.

Perhaps you find yourself battered, bruised, and heavy with shame. Be encouraged, my friend. There is no hurt He can’t heal, no wound He can’t mend, and no sin that outweighs His grace. You are never so broken that you can’t shine for the glory of God.

 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

—John 8:12 NIV





[1] Accessed August 17, 2016.

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