Have you ever stood long enough to really look at your shadow, or perhaps the shadow cast by your car? I am a ponderer, so I have! I stop for periods of time and consider things - sometimes stuff others might just not stop long enough, or consider important enough, to think on. So, last week, I began to "ponder" shadows. What you get when I "ponder" is the results of my "thinking things through"!
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 NKJV)
Psalm 23 is one of the most "popular" psalms in the Bible because it is so frequently recited at the graveside. As a means of some comfort, the loved ones are reminded God walks with their loved ones - and them - even in the valley of the SHADOW of death. Now, I don't know if you have ever experienced any death in your life, but as a nurse, I have seen more than my share. I don't ever recall a literal "shadow", but I certainly see the "results" of a shadow in these times! As you read on, you will connect the dots here.
Shadows have some unique qualities which might just help us gain perspective on them:
* Shadows have a way of appearing, not in the absence of light, but it is because of the light! No light - no shadow. The dawning and brilliance of light brings the evidence of the shadows. Interestingly, taken to the spiritual side of this equation, you will begin to see no shadow exists in your life apart from the light of Christ exposing it!
* Shadows have a way of reflecting something which is really out of perspective. Consider your shadow at noon. Because the light of the sun is right overhead, your shadow is very small - kind of like a really squatty version of you! At 4 p.m., your shadow may be very long, skinny and taller than reality! Either way, the "perspective" is a skewed image of the real. You really are not squatty and small - nor are you an elongated version capable of making headlines in the world record book! In other words, shadows do not reflect reality.
Now, since we understand shadows are based on the perspective we might have related to the "light" in our lives, what our psalmist might just be reminding us is to focus on the one who gives the light, not on the shadow cast which does not reflect the reality of the circumstance. Shadows reflect something real, but just out of perspective. My Camry does not look like a Camry when I see it as a shadow, but when I drive by a storefront of brilliantly polished glass, I see a "reflection" of the reality. A mirror does a much better job reflecting image, but it is still not three-dimensional. A shadow only shows us one dimension, as well.
To focus on the image we see in the mirror, or the one cast in the shadow, leads us to interpret things from the limited perspective we have. We see the "hugeness" of the shadow and assume the "thing" we are viewing is greater than we can overcome. Our psalmist reminds us, we walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow - it doesn't consume us, it doesn't hold us captive - we get through it when we focus on the light which illuminates the shadow, not the other way around. We need the "three-dimensional" viewpoint - only God holds this vantage! As we begin to see what "casts" the shadow, instead of the shadow, we gain perspective. Look in the opposite direction of the shadow and you will see the light!
You knew I'd have to look up shadow in the dictionary, didn't you? Here's the very first definition I found: a dark figure or image cast on the ground or some surface by a body intercepting light. Get it? When we actually see something intercepted by light we are seeing the light "stopped" by something in its way. The shadow is the result of the light coming into contact with the obstacle. If all we see is the shadow, we will never really understand the object being reflected by the light. We see some "image", but it may appear larger than life! I wonder just how many things we "view" from the perspective of "larger than life" simply because we are considering the "shadow" and not the object itself? Just sayin!